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Monday, May 26, 2014

Why Can't We Understand Each Other? 05-26

Why Can't We Understand Each Other?

Let me first admit that I've never read "Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus" (and maybe I should have, but that's another question). But the issue about miscommunication is very important and very relevant in corporations around the world.
That manifests itself in so many different ways, but it really shines through in the following outtake (from a great piece from my colleagues examining the breakdown in communication between CMOs and CIOs: CMOs and CIOs need to get along to make Big Data work).
"Shared goals and proximity, however, cannot overcome the common the stumbling block: the lack of a shared vocabulary. 'Marketers and technology people speak very different languages, so there’s a need on both sides to become bilingual,' says [Jonathan] Becher [CMO for SAP]. We have often seen two very intelligent people completely misunderstand each other. When it comes to defining use cases, for example, the CMO will often mean a few clear sentences. The CIO, on the other hand, is expecting 10 pages of single-lined details for each one. Frustration will quickly erupt unless both the CMO and CIO take the time to explicitly bridge the expectations gap."
This isn't exactly a new problem, but it's a nasty and persistent one that constantly undermines what might be useful working relationships and slows down organizations.
One way to start bridging the gap is focusing everyone on "data." Data has a critical role inside the organization—as its lingua franca, or universal language. Data is the basis of the most useful and productive conversations across business units. The core of a great relationship between CMO's and CIO's - and with the rest of the organization - is to have a shared sense of the data everyone needs to make decisions and to enable great customer experiences. With an agreed-on set of data on the table, customer service can speak to fulfillment, for example, and both departments can have a meaningful conversation with the CEO. CMOs can have more fruitful conversations with CFOs about budgets when they both use a common data set.
All of the other areas for discussion -- functionality, analytics, operations, etc. -- that CMO's and CIO's need to address, all are built off the data. Begin by understanding how data flows through the company now. Where is it created and used. How could it be better utilized. How could you find new sources. Building the bridge off a shared sense of the data you have and that which you need gets goals better aligned.
Now, data has its own traps. People often have more intrinsic trust in a number than a word, but numbers can be manipulated and misunderstood just like words. You need to test the data and make sure that it's objective and accurate. But once you've passed that bar, data is an asset that everyone can appreciate and use as a common frame of reference.