What is a Customer? How Simple Questions Get Complicated by Poor Data Governance

Author: Wavicle Data Solutions

Last time in our ongoing data governance series, we discussed three basic questions every business leader needs to ask to calibrate a new data governance program. Today, we’ve got some other questions on our minds, but they might seem a bit rudimentary at first glance. That’s because even the simplest concepts that define your business (e.g., customers and sales) can become murky without a solid data governance framework in place.


Imagine, for example, if not everyone in your organization agrees on what constitutes a completed sale. How can you reach your goals as a business without a firm definition of such a fundamental concept? If the numbers differ between departments, you may falsely believe your goals are within reach depending on where you look.


A successful data governance program aligns with your business strategy to ensure your company gets the most value from its data, no matter where it is generated or where it resides. That means getting everyone on the same page in terms of definitions. In this blog post, we’ll discuss how poor data governance can complicate even the simplest questions for your business and the practical tools you can use to avoid these issues.


What is a customer? What is a sale?

Useful data requires consensus. If your data isn’t properly governed, you just might lack a cohesive view of information that is fundamental to revenue generation and profitability. The simple fact is that teams in different departments commonly encounter discrepancies about these foundational terms within the data itself.


For example, someone in your sales department may create a proposal for a promising lead, and depending on how well it is received, they may mark that lead down as a new customer. But has this “customer” signed a contract? Are they entered into the system? Does the current stage of the prospect within the sales funnel reflect your organization’s shared definition of a customer, or are they still just a qualified lead?


These disparities arise because data without intervention and oversight can become siloed as it passes through an organization. This leads to multiple and competing versions of what should be simple, straightforward facts—a long way from the single source of truth you’re trying to achieve.


Everyone from account managers and sales support teams on the front line to the VP of Sales and Chief Revenue Officer should trust that data is reliable and uniform; otherwise, sales benchmarks and goals will fall apart. Fortunately, data governance can clear this problem up and spread ownership of clean data to all the pertinent decision-makers at your company.


A checklist to clear up questions

To avoid the kind of catastrophic confusion outlined above, you will need to find data governance tools and establish frameworks that align with your business. You can better prepare yourself to handle data discrepancies—and hopefully avoid them altogether.


Capture & catalog

The first step to getting on the same page across your organization involves discovering and collating company-wide data, a must-have function of any data governance tool or framework. We briefly mentioned this tactic in our first data governance blog. By cataloging your data and tagging it for easy discovery, everyone at your company will know exactly where to look to find the information they need. Once in place, your business will soon have an easy-to-read glossary that will benefit your entire workforce.


Master data & metadata

Keeping track of master data and metadata is key for achieving data quality and getting everyone on the same page about where things stand. Having control over master data values and identifiers enables consistent use across systems. Remember the single source of truth we’re trying to achieve? Master data management (MDM) gets you closer. Solid MDM will enable you to integrate multiple sources of data created by establishing data accuracy and uniformity across your entire enterprise. And by establishing one authoritative source of trust to filter incoming data, you can avoid confusion over what constitutes a customer, what qualifies as a sale, and other core concepts that need consensus.


Metadata, on the other hand, digs even deeper. As we’ve mentioned before, this is “data about data,” and it unlocks the proper use of enterprise data. By establishing solid metadata management, you get one step closer to creating a common informational language for your business. Every invaluable piece of data becomes coupled with context, history, and origin, removing all doubt about what the numbers say and how well you’re hitting benchmarks.


Look & feel

It may sound simplistic, but the better your organization is at data visualization, turning uniform and reliable databases into clear and actionable insight, the quicker everyone can get on the same page about the accuracy of KPIs and the status of sales goals. All the careful cataloging and contextualization of data—the lifeblood of your organization—means next to nothing if the graphical representation of said data is lacking.


When establishing your data governance framework, make sure you have access to tools that can represent data in ways everyone can easily comprehend and digest. A well-designed dashboard can help you and your stakeholders develop robust reporting that transforms your single source of truth into actionable insight. All departments—including marketing, sales, operations, manufacturing, and beyond—will be able to better collaborate towards shared goals when there is a clear, data-driven story that can shape decision-making. Put simply, solid data visualization brings your data governance framework to life.


Where to start?

With a data governance framework in place, you no longer have to wonder about a unanimous answer to simple questions like: “What is a customer?” But knowing where to start can prove daunting if you’re not accustomed to dealing with the inner workings of data.

Wavicle’s data governance team can help put you on the right track to ensure these and other essential building blocks are in place to guarantee consensus. We work with stakeholders throughout your organization to help you define the meaning of your data, streamline reporting, and oversee the implementation of the data governance framework. It all adds up to more accurate and reliable data-driven decisions that can banish ambiguity and clear a path toward a smoother and more profitable journey.


Ready to begin your data governance journey? Wavicle can help build a step-by-step framework with your unique business needs in mind.