The key to organizational alignment is a habit and a discipline that falls especially to data managers, according to a hypothetical case study presentation at the annual IDMA conference in Philadelphia.
The example was offered by Chuck Fordham, associate statistician, NJM Insurance Group and Marty Frappolli, senior director of knowledge resources, The Institutes, an educational resource for the insurance industry.
The message delivered is that data managers are “ultimate generalists” and critical to guiding business management in a technology landscape that is often driven by outside forces. The more data managers step up and accept tasks in alignment with the mission of the organization, the more likely they’ll earn a seat at the table.
In a typical IT environment, changes in systems are driven by vendors and not prompted by the business itself. In the flow of change, data managers should ask themselves questions that include: does the system align with finance, actuarial, claims, etc.? How do I ensure alignment when changes are vendor driven? Are affected parties eager to draw me in, or do they prefer to work around me?
The answers arrive best for data managers who first and foremost know the organizational mission statement and make themselves a missionary for its cause. Those who don’t know their organization’s mission statement word for word, or know it and don’t believe it, are probably in the wrong job, the speakers said.
Frappoli and Fordham said the greatest opportunity to improve alignment lies with data managers who refute the stereotype of being the gulf that lies between information technology and business leaders. “The attributes of a data manager should make them the go-to member of the organization,” said Fordham. “We usually don’t say no, we try to find a solution to the problem presented to us.”
It’s as simple as Business 101 and the opportunity every business should teach, said Frappoli. “You bring your manager solutions instead of problems. Conflict is time lost. Everybody except the CEO can have the same job and that job is to make the boss’s job easier.”
Organizational alignment begins with a mission statement, objectives, goals that align with objectives and tactics to make it all work. Data quality, for instance, is something everyone in the organization can relate to and benefit from. In the end, support for programs, such as data quality, serve the broadest need. Even if there are highly skilled people working hard in every department, if they are not working in alignment with the entire organization, there is little to benefit from.
Lone wolves can apply elsewhere, the speakers concluded. “If you are pursuing your own agenda you are not in alignment,” Frappoli. “Even though the organization is not my property, I want to behave as if I was the owner. That’s how you become the go-to person.”
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