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The Customer Data Rodeo

A rodeo is an exhibition or contest in which cowboys and cowgirls show their skill at riding broncos, roping calves, and wrestling steers. Some say that riding in a rodeo is the most dangerous sport around even compared to boxing and auto racing.

I didn’t believe this so I went out and did some research and it turns out that it is a pretty brutal activity. Between 1981 and 2005, 2,026 head and face injuries, 1,536 knee injuries and 1,476 shoulder injuries occurred at rodeo events(1). It is a tough sport, people get hurt, and people die.

Those bull riders have it rough but so does someone having to work with customer data! Trust me trying to navigate all the crazy forms of data, in its vast amounts, coming at you from any direction can be one of the hardest feats for many marketing champions and IT heroes! We call these people ‘Data Wranglers’ and they have some of the hardest jobs around. Sure they aren’t facing actual head, knee, or shoulder injuries but I know that they have many sleepless nights, headaches, eye strains, and maybe a broken ego or two.

Data and data about your customers is one of the most valuable assets your organization has and if you don’t learn how to exploit it your organization could be on the decline. Knowing your data allows you to understand the experiences your customers have with your organization. It also enables you to communicate effectively with your customers. Let’s face it, you need to learn how to go from “data rodeo” to “data symphony.” What we really need is a data taxonomist or what I like to call the “data conductor.”

Over my career I have worked with many clients and customers and some of the most common questions I hear: “What position is missing on our data management team?” Or “Why can’t we exploit our data?” I usually respond with a question: “Do you have a data steward or taxonomist?” Most of the time I get a confused look or the head shake. Or just simply: “Nope”. Well, this is a problem! All organizations need a data librarian or someone that can manage data and it’s meaning. This includes all the simple things like: technical attributes, quality, lineage, and security but there is a major gap that many organizations ignore. That gap is “What is the business description of our data?” I don’t care if your data is in a database, xml, csv, or json every single attribute has to be mapped to a business definition, description, and given a business friendly name. Those definitions have to be accessible, kept up to date, and leveraged by the rest of the organization. This dictionary has to be organization available and to anyone who uses data in your organization.

Think of your business data as data that describes your technical data. Yes it will be a bumpy process as your data is it’s own universe and has it’s own language. During your data management journey you will have your own rodeos. Trust me everyone will want a ride on the bull and will have their opinions on what the business rules and definitions should be. Don’t give up, keep going and just like those bull riders: HANG ON: it only hurts if you get thrown off!

So giddy up! and YEEEEEEHAAAAAW Data Cowboys and Cowgirls!

(1)dangerous sport: http://www.mysanantonio.com/news/local/article/Rodeo-injuries-highest-in-the-sports-world-5677639.php

John Thuma

John Thuma

John succeeds when assisting clients in developing solutions that have measurable business impact. With 25 years of field experience, he has developed solutions for multiple industries including: banking/financial services, retail, life-sciences, and others. Before AIQ, John worked for Teradata Aster as a Data Scientist.
John Thuma

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