What do you do when you realise that the data you rely on is not your own?

So you’re in your business, applying your efficient process which delivers results for your organisation. You create targeted marketing material based on the data you have available to you and this brings people through the door to buy your product. Life is good.

Then one day, the marketing still goes out, but the result isn’t as expected. The footfall reduces, and there’s an increase of complaints through your website or to your call centre. People are dissatisfied. Life isn’t so good anymore.

What went wrong? The same process is being used – it’s been working really well. Why is this happening?

3rd party data

As you start to understand your process, you realise that the data you rely on isn’t actually owned by you. You don’t create any data of your own; you are entirely reliant on a third party to deliver you information that you re-purpose (sometimes for a purpose other than for which it was intended) and then use. That third party has modified what they provide you with, or worse, they have stopped delivering it to you and you are using out of date information stored locally in your organisation. Perhaps they are an industry body subject to changes in legislation. Perhaps they found out that you were using the information they provide you in a way that breaks some privacy rule. Perhaps they made a change internally which has altered the format or delivery mechanism. Perhaps…

In your world, everything has changed. Your business is unable to operate as before and that change happened in an instant. You have no idea how to replace the information you need to re-start your business. There’s a huge blind spot in your organisation and worst of all, you didn’t even know it was there until it hit you between the eyes.

Fingers crossed and hope for the best

We often see businesses managed with hope and blind faith that everything will just keep on working; fingers crossed. Business Process Models are used to describe how things are done; but they are more often than not viewed without context and they typically don’t describe who is involved, whether it is efficient or effective, or what value it adds to the business. A variety of architecture diagrams are created to describe the technical aspects of systems, data, integrations, and user stories; but they don’t communicate well with people who don’t understand them or don’t have the time to learn and understand the legend.

When these tools fail to help, it’s a shock. That’s a terrible position to be in. Whilst they are often needed to help manage aspects the business, they are misused as a carte-blanche solution to all communication and planning needs.

Some organisations are mitigating this with the new role of the Chief Data Officer – the executive member responsible for understanding the information assets in the business and strategizing ways of doing more with these assets. Gartner have released research into the market about why and how you should value your information asset and what you should expect to happen if you don’t. You can read their position here and their research is available online from the Gartner website. We recently wrote more on this topic here.

Creating the CDO role isn’t in itself the answer. You have to know the information needs of your business. If you are missing this critical knowledge, you are at risk of having the carpet pulled from under you if that information becomes unavailable.

Pull the rug out from under you

Information Supply Chains are the answer; how information flows through your organisation in support of enabling your business outcomes. Focusing a part of your business resource on ensuring you know where your data comes from, how you turn that into information which generates the knowledge needed for you to make positive decisions, is the only way to ensure you keep walking on your carpet. And it is the only way. There is no other methodology available to you today which takes this information perspective and centralises knowledge around it which helps you understand where the value lies in your business and enables you to clearly justify the change and transformation decisions made. There is no other methodology which quickly enables you to capture your current state at a level of detail that makes sense, and then allows you maintain that state as change happens. There is no other methodology which delivers an information flow view of your business which everyone can easily understand, including 3rd party content which you rely on.

In our example business; if they had captured their Information Supply Chains, they would have known that they 100% relied on an external source for the information that drives their business outcome. That enables all manner of opportunity to successfully develop a relationship which mitigates unplanned and unannounced change. They would have the chance to manage the relationship, de-risking the likelihood of uninformed change. They would be in a position to proactively understand any legislative change which may impact their access to the information they need. They would be in a position to consider Plan B; where else can that data be obtained from, what might that cost, and what changes to processes would that force upon us? They would be in a position to ensure their business was able to cope with change, possibly even finding new opportunities to be different as a result of that work.

3rd Party Information Supply Chain

If you don’t understand your organisations information needs, but you’re aware that this is something that you need to resolve, Information Supply Chains captured through LINQ and the insights that process develops, is an effective way of taking a step towards that new way of seeing your business so you can solve any challenges you currently face as a result of your blind spots and share an approach with your entire business that works and protects your future.

The alternative? A switch is flicked that you are unaware of and your business stops. In an instant.