Data catalog tools are new territory for most companies we talk to. So, one of the first questions they ask us during the sales process is: Who should be in the room?
They might be expecting an answer like, “an enterprise data architect, your head of analytics, and a data engineer.” But we don’t give them a list of titles or roles.
To set them on the right path, we ask them questions like:
- Who has the true business problem?
- Who understands the problem deeply?
- Who feels the pain every day?
That’s because when we reflect on our most successful enterprise data catalog customers, we see patterns that go all the way back to the evaluation.
While many of our conversations start with IT teams, the problems they are really trying to solve are bigger than any single team. It’s more valuable to all parties if we start with that big business problem. When prospective customers prefer to discuss technical problems first, the conversation reveals that it’s a symptom of a larger business problem. Every time. The earlier we get there, the faster your data catalog evaluation moves.
Hard business problems are always cross-functional. These companies know they need an inclusive tool, built for broad use across teams, salary bands, and a wide spectrum of data literacy (not just the “data people!”). So we ask them to include not just the people who will help implement and integrate the data catalog (such as a Chief Data Officer), but also senior business stakeholders who can be the authoritative voice on the business problem. For example, you might not expect a Chief Financial Officer to join the evaluation (and they usually don’t), but it would make perfect sense because analysts and others who work in the CFO’s finance org use data to make decisions every day. That’s why we wouldn’t be surprised to see a CFO—or anyone else who has a big, data-related business problem—in the mix.
End users feature heavily in our sales process, and earlier than many prospects expect. That’s because data catalogs that actually solve business problems are not intended to be something people are forced to use. They have to want to use it, because it’s competing against a lot of habits that make the problems worse. For example, if you’re trying to empower people with the best data to make decisions, you need them to stop defaulting to sharing data via context-free emailed spreadsheets. To do that, you need to understand why they do it that way. You need to know what would entice them to switch from the old way—emailed spreadsheets—to the new way—an enterprise data catalog with a UX that cares about them.
In Focusing on the Business Persona Is How Tech CEOs Win in the Enterprise Metadata Management Market, Gartner analysts Alan Dayley, Mark Beyer, and Guido De Simoni nail it:
This technology-driven delivery approach of metadata management solutions leads to a wide data literacy gap with the ultimate roles and users. Therefore, the sales and implementation cycles for enterprise metadata management solutions are elongated, and, once acquired, the technology is not often used to its full potential. Because business needs are not met, the projects are often either dropped altogether, or customers become disenchanted with the acquired solution and begin to investigate alternatives.
We don’t always have the privilege of speaking directly to end-users during evaluations, but someone on the evaluation team needs to understand and represent their interests and preferences. Again, they have to want to use it––there’s no way around it.