The commercial results
of unlocking your
business data

On 25 April 2024, Agile Solutions and Semarchy hosted a breakfast roundtable, to discuss commercial data and Master Data Management (MDM) at the Eight Club in Moorgate. The morning brought together data professionals from a variety of sectors, including financial services, regulators, membership bodies, retailers and more. 

 Attendees shared the goal of better understanding business data, learning how best to protect it, maximise its value, and champion its importance and value in their organisations. That led to a fascinating discussion about commercial data, the relationship to data among stakeholders and the wider business, and the differing levels of data sophistication between sectors and individual businesses within them. 

 What data challenges are businesses facing right now? 

 One financial services attendee wanted to understand the direction of travel for market data. While a lot of change happens quickly it tends to be organic. However, the biggest recent transformation was as a result of the COVID lockdowns, when transaction data had to become 100% digital ‘overnight’. The same guest was keen to understand where their business could derive value from data, and how others were doing so. 

 A retailer guest wanted to understand the dynamics of master data. Exactly what is and isn’t aster data? Who ‘owns’ what piece of master data? How do you manage data, and how much should you manage it? 

 An attendee representing a payment platform was concerned that their business has no data strategy, and currently no way of collecting data. The business in question is due a large investment — the breakfast guest was anxious to understand how to store data, how to create a data strategy, and how to monetise that data by using it for better commercial decision-making and business outcomes. 

 What is the value of data to a business, and how can you demonstrate it? 

 One participant noted that once your data is in a state of high quality, and is well-structured, a business can derive insights from it, which present opportunities for cross-sells and upsells. 

 A retailer argued that for them, customer data was the obvious source of greatest value, so instead of investing in a data platform, they chose a Customer Data Platform to track touchpoints and shopper behaviour. 

 A finance guest explained that visualisation was what made data the most valuable to them. They noted too, that having a data visualisation system made it easier to secure buy-in from stakeholders and investment in the systems. 

 Visualisation can be a powerful way to demonstrate the potential of high quality data, because stakeholders and decision-makers can understand its potential with an immediate illustration, rather than a conceptual ‘future state’. 

 The question arose, if the data is in a poor state, how do you ‘sell’ data investment to senior management? The attendees agreed that by showing stakeholders the state of their data and illustrating the consequences of it, you are more likely to motivate them. Compliance is often the door opener in those cases, because decision-makers understand the consequences, and will be anxious to avoid compliance breaches. 

 Data Strategy and commercial outcomes: The language of business and the language of data 

 It is no longer viable to think of business strategy separately from data strategy, argued one participant. Senior management need to understand and recognise that, and to that end it is incumbent on data champions to: 

  • Involve them and ask what they want from their data 
  • Show stakeholders the outcomes through data ‘stories’ that thoroughly understand the business and speak in the language of the C-suite 
  • Understand the customer journey and relate all data to how the business makes money 

A data culture is essential, noted one participant and an organisation must incentivise and reward positive behaviour around data. In most cases that culture will come from the top — if the C-suite care about data, then that concern will trickle down. Protect that culture by giving everyone insight into why data is critical, so that they understand and value it too, rather than simply following best data practice out of obligation. 

Because MDM aspires to the ‘golden record’ or single source of truth, part of establishing a data culture is agreeing on a starting point. One attendee suggested that the best starting point was to segment customers and aim for a ‘single customer view’. 

Key takeaways: MDM principles, and what to remember when embarking on a data journey 

The group agreed on the principles around Master Data Management and how to approach it: 

  • Understand the business’s (and decision makers’) pain points to demonstrate the value of data and MDM and secure buy-in 
  • Be tenacious: it is a long journey and a long project. Demonstrating value incrementally will help to maintain enthusiasm across the business 
  • Just get started: you can start small, but do not wait long to get the project off the ground rather than waiting until you feel totally ‘ready’ 
  • Be agile: adapt and innovate. Don’t be wedded to a path 
  • Don’t be afraid to fail: You will not get right the first time. Better to experiment and make mistakes to learn from, rather than be too cautious to try. 

Interested in learning more about MDM and its impact on business data? 

Here is an Agile Solutions Guide to Customer MDM 

Watch this video for a summary of how to control customer data with MDM 

Here are the Five Steps to a Golden Record 

Learn More about Semarchy’s Master Data Management solution here, and if you would like to hear some expert, strategic advice for implementing a data management solution in your business, building a data culture, and deriving the full value of your data, feel free to contact james.dsouza@agilesolutions.co.uk.