Saturday, 12 July 2008

It's MY data, dammit!

The story you are about to read is true. The names have been changed to protect the innocent.

It was Tuesday, July 8, a smoggy day in the metropolis. My name is Joe Friday, and I implement business systems.

Normally accountants are quiet, orderly people, but the Financial Analyst in front of me had more than just a hair out of place. She was spitting mad.

"Those Customer Relationship Management people have ruined my data."

"Just the facts, ma'am. What seems to be the problem?"

"We have duplicate customers all through the system. We should never have let them in. It's an accounting system. CRM is just an add-on."

I promised her I would get right on it, so, taking my morning coffee with me, I made my way over to the sales area. The Sales Manager was having his own problems.

"Turns out each member of the sales team had their individual way of keeping their list of key contacts. The goods ones used our official contact manager, but other guys used Excel or one even had them on 3 by 5 cue cards, just like his grandfather."

"What seems to be the problem, sir?"

"Problem is they don't want to give up their old ways. Different guys recorded the same customer different ways. When we merged the lists we created duplicates. That got Accounting really mad at us. They said we had to use their system, but frankly, all they care about is name and address. We have multiple contacts, the account history and the industry stats to load as well. But that's not the big problem."

"What is the big problem?"

"The big problem is that the sales team don't want to give up 'their' data at all. They're afraid that others will use their contacts or that we'll fire them when we have their stuff."

This wasn't going to be an easy case after all. Who really owns the data? Is it the sales staff who worked so hard to compile it? Is it the Sales Manager, who is responsible for the team's performance? Or is it really Accounting's data, since, after all, the information is going into a CRM add-on to the Accounting System. Stay tuned for the exciting conclusion next . . .

I fast forward the tape to the next installment.

Friday here. The suspects are all together in one room. The time had come to put an end to the data ownership question.

"Listen up. I have interviewed each one of you and looked at all the relevant laws. Nobody owns the data."

Pandemonium erupted. Everyone shouted at once. Accusations flew. Then the door opened and an immediate hush descended on the room. There, standing in the doorway, was none other than the mysterious woman from the corner office.

"My grandfather started this company. I have worked here all my life. I own 85 percent of the shares of this corporation. I own the data."

She entered the room and walked over to the salesperson.

"George, you have a personal relationship with each of your customers. If they sneeze, you're standing there with a kleenex. But when you go on vacation and one of them calls, I don't know what the hell's going on. And I don't like that. Nobody can do your job like you, George. But nobody can do your job at all when you're not here. Got it?"

George nodded. The President moved to the Financial Analyst.

"Grace, you care about the information. Accuracy is your middle name. But you don't bring in a single sale. Not one. You've got to learn to get along with the others. You have to share your toys or we all won't get to keep playing the game. Make sense?"

Grace looked at the floor.

"Okay, Joe. I think they get the picture," she turned to face the group. "Show's over, folks. Back to work."

"That's my line," I said. She winked at me as she left the room.