Monday, August 19, 2013

Middle Management Secrets for Big Data

Middle Management Lost in the Big Data Shuffle

If data quality gets lost in the shuffle in Big Data implementation, so also does the role of Middle Management.  Despite the promise of data management and big data, many of the firms investing in customer information technology have  witnessed limited financial success from their data-driven efforts designed to get close to customers.
  


big data, middle management


As a consequence, many adopters became disillusioned and learned for themselves that customer-centricity is difficult to accomplish, requires a high level of coordination between IT and marketing, and involves a cultural shift with regard to how customer data are integrated and shared within and between functional areas (Zahay and Peltier, 2007). 


Data Quality Improves When Middle Management Feels Involved

The interpersonal and organizational factors of big data implementation, which  my co-authors and I have been studying since 2007, has only recently come to the forefront as critical to the success of Big Data projects.  In fact, our research shows that companies where middle management believes it is involved in customer data management and feels supported, data quality improves and so does firm performance. So it is critical to involve middle management in customer information processes.  

Middle managers, as our Dilbert, cartoon illustrates, often take a back seat or are assigned limited importance in organization. However, these managers play a key role in strategy execution, particularly in cross-functional efforts such as CRM and Big Data.  Prior work from the Gartner Group suggests that among the building blocks of successful CRM implementation, which is a customer data-dependent application are Organizational Collaboration, and Organizational Processes.    


How to Involve Middle Managers in Big Data

What does it mean to involve Middle Management and improve organizational collaboration?  These results are based on 128 responses from managers in the financial services industry.  In our survey we asked middle managers three key questions to which they responded on a scale of 1-5 with 5 being strongly agree and 1 being strongly disagree.  The questions were as follows:

  1. We feel comfortable calling our upper management when the need arises
  2. Our marketing management is responsive ot our customer information ides
  3. Marketing managers can easily schedule meetings with upper management

Marketing management support was strongly correlated with customer data quality, which in previous research we have demonstrated to be related to ultimate firm performance.  In a regression analysis, marketing manager support was also significant in predicting customer data quality.  These results are consistent with other research we have conducted (Zahay and Peltier 2008) and show the importance of involving middle management in the process.


Bottom-Up Strategy is the Key

It appears that in order to ensure data quality, the firm’s middle management and upper management must have an open and communicative relationship.  Consistent with findings from practice, the most successful organizational relationships in these companies had a clear role for middle management in translating the language of quality customer information management to upper management.  These results are also consistent with several schools of thought in strategy, which support the idea that strategy comes from the bottom up, or at least from middle management back to top management (Bower 1986).  

By Debra Zahay-Blatz.
You can find Debra on  and Twitter as well as LinkedIn.

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