Article

The data dilemma

Top 6 questions to escape the traps of disconnected and outdated processes and systems

Aug 23, 2022
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Digital evolution Digital transformation Customer experience Data analytics

A tight labor market has made the employee experience more important than ever to the success of middle market firms. A positive employee experience drives customer experience, improves employee productivity and raises customer experience scores. But disconnected data could be hurting your organization’s employee experience—and, by extension, your customers.

Employees—from customer service representatives all the way to the C-suite—need connected, accessible data. Yet most middle market businesses struggle with data siloes and outdated systems that prevent employees from accessing the information they need to do their jobs.

How can your organization escape the data dilemma and realize the full potential of your data and your employees? Ask these six questions to find out.

1. Are employees experiencing warning signs of disconnected data?

Red flags aren’t always evident to management. Ask the employees on the front lines with your customers if they regularly face any of the following problems:

  • Siloed systems. Are employees having to spend too much time pulling data from disparate systems that don’t work together to gather complete, accurate customer profiles?
  • Overly complicated procedures. Do employees have to search multiple data sources for the information they need? Are processes unintuitive and unconnected?
  • Reliance on manual processes. Do employees cobble together information using spreadsheets or other manual methods?  

2. Do we have a robust data governance policy?

Without a solid data governance plan, even the world’s biggest data warehouse won’t deliver the single-pane-of-glass vision you need. If your organization doesn’t have a data governance program in place, establishing one will be critical to data success.

Consider the following when developing your data governance policy:

  • What types of data should be accessible and by whom?
  • How will access to data be controlled?
  • What risk mitigation factors must be considered?
  • How will new solutions be selected? Which decisionmakers should participate in those choices?

3. Does our approach to data management support or thwart the employee and customer experience?

Ultimately, serving the customer is every employee’s most important job. To succeed, employees need the right data at the right moment. Without real-time access to current, reliable data, the customer experience suffers. When integrated, standardized and accurate data provides a single source of truth and employees enjoy a seamless experience that informs their interaction with customers. Automated processes and workflows that save employees time also improve the employee experience, which can positively affect customer interactions.

Of corporate board members recently surveyed:

30%

said enhancing the customer experience was most important to the success of their growth strategy.*

55%

said recruiting, retaining and upskilling talent has been a barrier to the company’s growth strategy.*

4. What is disconnected data costing us?

The costs of disconnected data aren’t limited to lost customers or revenue. There’s also a human capital cost. Employees—especially younger ones—have grown up with smartphones that put data at their fingertips. They expect the same easy access to information at work. Using outdated systems or manual processes to dig up data wastes time employees could spend contributing real value. Eventually, this poor employee experience reduces employee satisfaction and loyalty. In today’s social media-driven world, it can even damage your organization’s reputation, making it more difficult to attract qualified workers.

5. What is the business case for change?

Tying data together into a holistic view can solve many business challenges. But before launching your data project, you must identify the business case for change. Consider how your initiative fits into your organization’s overall strategic plan. Set measurable business goals, and determine the ROI you hope to achieve. Your business objectives may include:

  • Enhancing employee engagement, satisfaction and retention
  • Increasing customer retention rate
  • Improving customer satisfaction scores
  • Reducing customer churn
  • Maximizing profitability or increasing revenues
  • Streamlining efficiency throughout the supply chain to reduce hard costs 

6. How can we get buy-in?

Change can be hard. Even if your organization could do things better, faster and cheaper, company leadership may not want to relinquish control of data or give up legacy systems and processes. Are decisionmakers satisfied with the status quo? Are they content to wait days or weeks for the data they need? Do they accept the risks of relying on inaccurate or outdated data for decisions?

Demonstrating the human costs of disconnected data can help overcome this resistance. With employees leaving the workforce at unprecedented levels, employee satisfaction can affect a middle market company's ability to grow. Gathering and sharing honest feedback from employees on the ground about the problems data disconnection causes can help open leadership’s eyes to the need for change. 

Time for transformation

Technology enables middle market companies to compete against larger organizations more effectively than they could in the past. But without a firm foundation in data management and governance, middle market firms will eventually fall behind. In the short term, you may be able to provide a comparable employee experience despite disconnected data. But in the long run, you won’t be able to offer a better experience than your bigger competitors.

Eliminating data siloes to create a single-pane-of-glass data record that employees can quickly access can significantly enhance the employee experience. By automating routine tasks and freeing employees to perform data analysis, your organization can also gain insights that transform it from reactive to proactive and predictive.

Enlisting an experienced advisor with deep knowledge of business and technology can provide a valuable outside perspective on your data challenges. This insight can help you develop a strategy to support your goals, implement new technology and create the culture of change you need to transform your organization. 

*Source: Corporate Board Member-RSM US LLP Research Report. (2022). “The Transformation Imperative: Understanding the Role of Digital Across the Organization.

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