CAMBRIDGE, Mass., — When Adobe made the move to software as a service and the cloud it was driving more data than the back office was prepared to take on.
Operating alone, the IT organization could not consistently analyze the key performance indicators across departments like sales, marketing, product engineering and support. The IT organization wasn't structured in a way to use the influx of data for Adobe's business. It was time for a unifying playbook.
Because data is so critical to a business' longevity, strategic data management has become just as critical. However, silos in how data is managed creates a decentralization of truth and interpretations. It's easy for companies to fall in the pit of siloed data management when every department uses data for different means.
The subscription-based model requires businesses like Adobe to "prove their value literally every month," which pushed it toward developing its Data-Driven Operating Model, said Mark Picone, VP of information and data services at Adobe, while speaking at the MIT Sloan CIO Symposium in Cambridge, Mass. last week.
The model is for crafting customer insights and standardizing data use cases across departments. Adobe's IT department partnered with its go-to-market and marketing teams to develop the playbook.
Before the operating standard, departments had different internal systems and processes for managing the data that meant the most to them. But now the model begs the question, "why would [departments] go anywhere other than what we curated for them" for data, said Picone.
Companies used to restrict access to data, keeping it within the walls of an organization, but that model doesn't work for the modern business, said Barbara Haley Wixom, principal research scientist, MIT Sloan Center for Information Systems Research, while speaking at the symposium.
Interdepartmental and third party use of data demand a main source of governance and fact, which calls for constructing a company culture for a more "algorithmic economy," said Haley Wixom. Employees need a pervasive use of data to carry out key tasks.
Crafting the playbook
Having unified data management makes a case stronger, or weaker because everyone is accessing their facts from one place.
Now, when it comes to presentations to the C-suite and board, Adobe's employees don't have to rely on PowerPoint or Excel presentations for data records, said Picone. Employees can refer to the Data-Driven Operating Model instead for a "single source of the truth."
Creating a single source of truth requires getting a certified data element, which is done by asking questions like:
What are the characteristics of the data?
What is the anomaly detection?
What binds data producers with data consumers?
Who else is using that data?
How will the data be governed by the organization?
Picone's team went through the process of asking each department what key questions they try to answer on a daily basis using data. The IT organization was inundated with responses.
"It felt like we were boiling the ocean," said Picone. So the team asked the departments to narrow what they need from data to five key questions.
The IT organization needed to see how each department uses data and how they understand it because some departments focus on a single analytical step. Picone's team needed to know more and pursued "outside-in" steps for each department based on Adobe's established "customer journey steps."
The traditional "customer journey steps" are used when trying to craft actionable key performance indicators. The steps include when customers discover, try, buy, use and renew an Adobe product.
The same method was used internally for the early stages of drafting the playbook. Understanding who owns each of the steps in a department and what are the calls to action are mirrored in the customer journey steps.
"The data is the product" and the go-to-market is internal, said Picone. It's the organizations that IT works with that helped the company "align around a roadmap that augments the dataset and creates new capabilities so when other organizations become part of that process, the more they feel like it's theirs."