5 Steps to Accepting You Have a Master Data Problem

Common Reactions to Data Challenges

As we turn the calendar to a New Year, most of us are resolved to improve our health: eat better, exercise more, quit smoking, etc., you know the drill. While I have no personal advice for you, I do want you to think about the health of your business, specifically the health of your business data. Data is the lifeblood of your processes. Unhealthy data leads to stagnant workflows, siloed thinking, and ultimately, bad decisions. If your data is sick, your business is sick. Sure, you can still make sales, attract audiences, manage risk and stay compliant, but think of all the extra effort that it takes when your data is not one hundred percent accurate. It’s almost like if your company, metaphorically speaking, was huffing and puffing as it climbed a few flights of stairs. You made it, but it hurts.

Erroneous definitions, a lack of internal standards, disparate data sources and multiple workflows can inhibit growth and lead to stress and frustration. But there is a cure.

Just like poor heath, bad data can lead to serious problems for you and your peers. Erroneous definitions, a lack of internal standards, disparate data sources and multiple workflows can inhibit growth and lead to stress and frustration. But there is a cure.


Good data, like good health, takes the proper management. It’s not easy. Let’s take your customer data: it’s probably in multiple departments (Sales, Marketing, Finance operations), different geographies (local, regional, global), and a myriad of systems (ERP, CRM, MDM, MarTech, AdTech). If you’re like most enterprises, you have very few healthy standards and could use a solid dose of well-mastered data.

Good data management can’t start until you realize you actually need it. We have identified the five stages many businesses experience before putting a master data strategy in place:



1. Denial: “This can’t be happening!”

Your head of sales will defiantly state, “We know our customers better than anyone else.” Being close to your customers does not mean that your customer data is close to right. Can you easily answer questions like “who are my top customers?” Your master file is a slave to your own lack of consistency. How many ways do you identify “Wal-Mart?” Wal*Mart, Wal Mart, Wal-mart, Walmart, WM? It’s time to face it…head on.

2. Anger: “Who did this?”

Trying to track the multiple trade styles of a global client or seeing 100 variations of a customer name would get anyone upset. Before you tear your people apart, however, please realize they are torn between data maintenance and moving product. As their superior, what gets you angrier, anyway—low data quality––or low volume?

3. Bargaining: “We can fix it ourselves.”

“We can put in a stewardship program,” you think. Many others do, too. Go on and deploy your resources to formalize a strategic plan to ensure everyone inputs the word “STREET” the same way. Now, there’s a real value-added activity. Meanwhile, your competition is out increasing market share. Do you want good spelling––or good selling?

4. Depression: “This is a disaster!”

The more customers you have and the more data inputs you gather, the bigger the problems. Nothing feels worse than customers telling you that your view of them is wrong. They want you to have a hierarchy that reflects the way they view themselves. But you don’t, and gee it just never seems to be right. Bummer.

5. Acceptance: “OK, we need help.”

Life is moving too fast. Thousands of companies open and close each month. Hierarchies and relationships change constantly. You can’t keep up. I know, I know. Reach out to those who understand your situation. They’ve been there. We know your pain.

Take a Shortcut to Mastering Your Data

Healthy data makes for a healthy business. Accept it and get to Stage 5 as quickly as possible. Once you can start to apply a consistent data structure, one that connects across your business universe and is supported with quality your organization can trust, you begin your journey to recovery. Go on, start today. We can help you every step of the way.