Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Ways to 'Communivate' your Data Issues

Part 1 of:
Purple Cow approach to Data Quality

Or: How to have fun while trying trying to jump data quality sponsorship hurdles
Or: how to use innovative communication tactics to reach your Data Quality objectives.

‘Communivate’ is a combination of the words communicate and innovate, and it means to communicate in an innovative way. Our team uses it a lot to describe how we get our message across. We are one of those insane teams (aka Sneezers ) who constantly push the boundaries of ‘appropriate’ tactics to get the job done, and are always coming up with new terms to describe our approaches. (Makes me wonder if coining new terms is a DQ thing?)

I am responsible for implementing a Data Quality (DQ) program and I have no business sponsor. As a result, my team and I put an enormous amount of effort into achieving the following:
· Raising awareness
· Communicating poor DQ issues
· Stalking (did I say stalking?) I meant to say identifying and engaging business stakeholders
· Developing business cases to educate business and IT on best practices
· Getting buy-in

Essentially, we collect a lot of data and share it with whoever will listen. And because we don’t have that essential business sponsor, we need to communicate over and over (and over) the same messages to various stakeholders. It can get tiresome [insert shot of Dracula sucking enthusiasm out of lifeless body here] after a while…

So, here is one example of how we communivate,
Goal 1: Raise Awareness
The Strategy? Find a Captive Audience.
Since we don’t have a business sponsor we don’t have the same corporate tools to spread the word. Internal intranets, team portals and corporate newsletters are all off limits, so instead we took the message to the people. Because we’re sneezers, we wanted to push the boundaries and have fun. The team printed off screenshots of seriously bad data and posted them (under covert secrecy – more sneezer fun) on the doors of washroom stalls. You could not get a more captive audience than that.
The results? We ran this campaign 4 times over a 1 year period and by the end of the year our communivative strategy AND the message we were trying to achieve was mentioned by a Senior VP in a corporate communication, we received 57 positive (and I tree hugging negative) comments and another Senior VP asked us when our new campaign was going to start. (Ok, they still are not sponsoring us but they do like us, so one thing at a time..).

Awareness raised, goal achieved.


  1. Remarkably Purple Post Jill!

    (I say we start using Purple Post to refer to a Purple Cow of a blog post!)

    “Communivate” – I love it!

    Data quality so often requires grass roots advocacy. I commend you and your fellow Sneezers on not letting a lack of executive sponsorship or an absence of a formal mandate prevent you from doing whatever was necessary to raise awareness of the importance of data quality.

    Apathy can only be overcome Communivation!

    I am looking forward to reading the continuing Adventures of The Purple Cow approach to Data Quality!

    Best Regards,


  2. Thank you Jim. Although I have received a lot of encouragement (especially from Dylan Jones!) , your posts have given me the greatest inspiration. Methinks we think the same when we're thinking our thoughts :)

  3. Yes, Dylan has been especially encouraging to me as well – he is the one who got me into blogging in the first place (Thanks again, Dylan!).

    I really appreciate your kind words.

    I have always believed that within a community of like-minded individuals, it is impossible to say where one person’s thoughts end and the next person's begin. So, in a very true way, your greatest inspiration has actually come from within.

  4. Hi Jill

    This is a great post, I really admire your passion for forging on and getting creative without sponsorship.

    The flip side is probably experienced by so many companies - no-one cares so let's give up, it's so easy to think it's somebody else's problem.

    Really excited to learn about your stalking, sorry engaging, techniques for creating awareness and involvement.

    Keep throwing that mud, it will stick on a sponsor soon I'm sure!

  5. Love the Sneezer's tatics. Did you put an estimate of the cost of fixing the problem under each screenshot?

  6. Thank you Jim, Dylan and Sarah for your supportive commentivates!
    Dylan, if it wasn't for your continued encouragement I wouldn't have done this. I look forward to sharing our stalking techniques ;)
    Sarah, you idea is a great one. We thought of that at the time and since we used screen shots we thought it might not have a great impact if we showed the cost to fix that one piece of data. But the sneezers really liked your idea, and are putting a plan in place to communivate the total costs using some of the quality reports we currently generate. It may turn out to be a future story!
    Jim, as always, your posts are so much fun to read you make it that much more fun to write.