Solving the Procurement Data Dilemma: How to sell data projects to stakeholders
An Interview with Scott Taylor on ‘Telling your data story’
In this interview, which continues our series on the solving the procurement data dilemma, I am joined by Scott Taylor, Principal Consultant, MetaMeta Consulting, and a strategic advisor in this area. Scott is best known as The Data Whisperer, which, as he explains is all about ‘calming data down.’
Scott is also the author of ‘Telling Your Data Story.’ The book, which is out later this year, forms a practical guide to convincing your business stakeholders of the strategic power of proper data management.
Enterprise data management mission
I started by asking what drives and motivates Scott in this field. Scott explains, “My mission is helping people who are trying to change the nature of enterprise data management. I basically help people talk about their data in different ways, in ways that are more business accessible, in ways that will get stakeholder engagement, and in ways which help show why that work, which is super-important, drives the business.”
He adds, “And for me, how do you change the nature of messaging, the storytelling, the vocabulary, of enterprise data management. It’s one of the most important disciplines any organization has, and I would say it’s an unsung hero in a lot of cases, but it’s buried behind the scenes, it’s historically very internally focused, the language people use is not getting through and the folks that need funding and support for it aren’t succeeding like their analytics peers are. So, when you think about what’s hot in the data and analytics space, it’s always more focused on the analytics side rather than the pure data side. So, I am a self-assigned standard bearer for data management versus business intelligence.”
The strategic value of enterprise data management
In the interview, Scott talks about the importance of articulating the strategic value of data.
“If you think about it generically, every business is trying to deliver value to their relationships, through their brands, at scale. The ‘at scale’ part is the determining factor today.
Scott believes that there are three aspects to understanding value that need to be considered:
- How do you help grow the business?
- How do you help improve the business?
- How do you help protect the business?
Scott continues, “When I think of relationships, the two biggest relationships that any organization has are their customer relationships and their supplier and vendor relationships. And so focusing particularly on the supplier and vendor relationships, how do we deliver more value to each other in those relationships at scale that comes through a lot of the more advanced procurement techniques, it comes through enterprise systems that are supporting supply chain, material acquisition, all those things that go into making what ends up being the brand.
Building a successful procurement function built on data
Scott stresses two factors that data project leaders have to take into account:
- How do you engage with the business?
- How do you prove value from data?
The second point underlines one of Scott’s biggest frustrations, as he explains:
“Why do we have to defend even just the concept of data today? We still do. We still have, if you open up LinkedIn, you’ll see on everybody’s feed this almost rudimentary discussion around why data is important. And the struggle CTOs have, that procurement leaders have, who are data focused and data driven, indeed that any analytics group has, is continually having to prove the value of what they do.”
Scott says that organizations need to overcome this and focus on moving forward, “So, for me, we’ve got to get past that, we’ve got to get away from the ‘if’ and go: ‘we are going to do it, how we’re going to do it, it’s not a question anymore.’ And so, I focus on the ‘why.’ That’s my key point, I’m not about the ‘how,’ I’m not about the ‘who,’ or the ‘what’ or the ‘when.’ I’m about the ‘why.’ This is important, because once you strike that ‘why’ and it’s confirmed, and executive leadership understands it, the rest of the organization can support it – and then you move on.”
If you’re trying to look at your supplier master and refresh that, or get investment around it, Scott explains that it is important to focus not on the tactical aspects, but on the strategic benefits that stress business value in a very tangible and identifiable way. Examples might be:
- We need to transform the nature of our relationship with our supplier base
- We’re trying to obtain more efficiencies,
- We want to aggregate our spend in a more systematic and repeatable way
As Scott points out, “It’s basic positioning, it’s talking about benefits instead of features, it’s talking about what it enables rather than what the thing and the piece parts are. So, it’s all language. All of everything I’ve just said is about changing the way you talk about it.”
Scott’s book ‘Telling your data story’ introduces a framework that he calls ‘The Three V’s of Data Storytelling,’ namely vocabulary, voice and vision.
- Vocabulary: The words you use are important, the terminology you use is important. It’s got to align to the business.
- Voice: What’s your voice, how do you speak about this topic, and what does your company say about its brands, about its relationships, about its suppliers? It will be there, just start to aggregate all that up and harmonize to a common voice. Everybody on your team should be speaking the same language about the same things.
- Vision: How do you point what you’re doing at the vision of your company? How does supplier data enable the strategic intentions of your enterprise? You know it in your heart. You’ve got to be able to articulate it.
The future direction
I asked Scott about his thoughts on the future of data.
“So, what the future of data is, I think is around capturing and structuring more data. So, master data, I think is the most important data that any organization has. It’s about your relationships, it’s about your brands. There’s nothing more important in an organization – to be a business – than to have relationships that are healthy and well-structured from a data perspective and to have brands that bring value. People who focus on that are going to succeed. People who focus on that now are already succeeding.”
Scott cites the examples of transformative disruptors such as Amazon, Uber, AirBnB, which he says all have one aspect in common. “They all work off of highly structured, well governed, expertly stewarded data as a foundation.”
Scott ends the interviewing by reiterating the importance of knowing your data quality and types, as he concludes: “Master data is the most important data, structured data works harder than unstructured data, and good decisions you make on bad data are just bad decisions you don’t know about yet. So, you’ve got to get that foundation right.”
Supplier Experience Live from HICX is available on all major Podcast streaming platforms: