Insights & Ideas

Want to sell data quality? Focus on personal losses, not corporate gains

Data quality management is one of those dry discussion topics that can cause senior management, knowledge workers and spouses to make excuses and rapidly leave the room.

The reason is that many people can’t easily relate it to their own working lives. Perhaps the biggest problem I see is that data quality champions often focus on the anticipated gains to an organization.

Money is often the primary selling point. If you invest Y amounts of pounds in data quality improvements you’ll get 2 x Y back within two years, 4 x Y in three years and so on.

The problem is people are not as motivated by corporate gains as they are by personal losses.

In this interesting article by Harvard Law Professor Cass Sunstein, several tactics for getting buy-in through promising gains were trialled and failed. When the threat of loss was introduced the results were very different. The desired actions were observed to a much higher degree.

If you’re trying to pitch data quality management then you need to understand what personal losses are attributable to bad data. For example, if you’re trying to explain why data quality improvement will help a project get completed quicker (i.e. a gain) will the manager really be interested by that? What about if you can demonstrate that the project will actually take longer than forecasted and ultimately create a bad image of their effectiveness as a manager if they don’t invest in your plan for better data. Not acting becomes a tangible loss and one they’re far more likely to take action over.

In one example, we reported on how data quality gains were promoted for two years with no investment received. When bad press through bad data hit executives personally there was budget for improvements within two days.

Never underestimate the impact of personal losses when trying to sell data quality, it can be the key to unlocking the buy-in for your vision.

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