Think Horizontally

In a previous blog post, I suggested that the only thing of lasting value that IT professionals create is high quality data.  But how exactly, do you create such as asset?  In this article, I’ll explain our method.

The strategy is simple.  Get as many eyeballs looking at your data set as possible.  Try to get folks from multiple functions (i.e. accounting, operations, sales, etc.), consuming the data.  Try to get people at different levels of the organization, (i.e. line workers, supervisors, managers, executives) to rely on the fidelity of the data.

When we start working with a new partner, we often recommend creating an information system that spans multiple departments.  This is because many organizations struggle at the intersection between departments.  Surprisingly, many departmental handoffs are conducted with emails or even paper forms.  And even when IT solutions are in place, they often stop at the department boundary.  The inherent lack of visibility and difficulty in providing adequate work specifications creates friction and waste.  By formalizing these handoffs and making them transparent, we often garner huge efficiency gains for our partners.

A happy byproduct of creating department spanning systems is that your data set is now being relied upon by more than one function.  And as soon as the upstream and downstream departments see the utility of this approach, it’s only a matter of time until the entire organization is riding on your “Information SuperHighway”.

Contrast this with the approach many organizations pursue with “best-in-breed” point solutions.  These vertical beasts often overlap each other and create “data dissonance”. Imagine having multiple user ids, all with different passwords, expiring on different schedules, and having to obey different complexity rules.  Unfortunately, this is the reality for some of my customers.  Now, if the user account list is being replicated in multiple systems, you can bet that the customer list, the parts list, the suppliers list, the asset list, and a whole host of other lists are being replicated across multiple systems.  Entire jobs get created to ensure that processes function properly in such a “noisy” information landscape.  Imagine the waste!

So when you’re ready to make the investment in an information system for your company, think about automating processes that span departments, think about minimizing the number of replicated lists, think about using a single user id across all your systems.  Think horizontally.

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