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Data transformation is a lot like climbing the tallest, free-standing mountain in the world.

TS Elliot

In the next few weeks, I will be standing in Tanzania, Africa admiring Mt. Kilimanjaro, the tallest, free-standing mountain in the world. Most likely, I will feel a range of emotions. Ranging from complete exhilaration to I might be slightly nuts.

But today, as I assess the preparation for this BHAG, I realize that it has a very similar feel to professional BHAG, data transformation.

Let's start with the obvious similarities:

  • Both seem overwhelming, with no clear pathway to start.

  • Both are exciting and would be cool to accomplish

  • Both have a similar adventure like qualities

  • Entering a foreign country

  • Having the mindset to attempt something differently

  • Exploring the unknown

  • Both come with a fear of change

  • Doing something differently is uncomfortable and unknown

The hardest part of any lofty goal is not necessarily how to start, but just starting itself. Taking the big goal by the horns and declaring you are choosing this goal. This action implies understanding what is driving you to take on this challenge. This is your why. Understanding the reason why you take on a challenge is crucial to success. If you are taking on a challenge with a defined intention and desire, the chances of success increase significantly!

Next is understanding the components/ elements that go into achieving this goal. The decision to climb Kilimanjaro was made 20 years ago, but the planning started several months ago as I explored the feasibility of this effort. When to go, Where to find a reputable guide? What tools do I need? What fitness condition do I need to be in? How long will this take? All of these factors drove the decision to engage in this endeavor.

The same is true with data transformation.

Phase 1. Having the Vision

Transforming an enterprise by leveraging its data is a complicated decision. It takes time, talent, and tools, but ultimately there has to be the "why." Why should an enterprise change?

In some cases, it's critical, their livelihood hinges upon changing. For others its because they can see how a change can lead to betterment. In the case of credit unions, leveraging their robust data drive to improving the lives of their members is a fantastic reason. The use case for successful data transformation has to be measurable and ideally built with leadership consensus.

Phase 2. Creating Plan/ roadmap.

Once you know you know why you are taking on this challenge, the next step is creating a plan/roadmap on how. The first action to take is to start with an assessment of the current condition of your enterprise. Consider assessing your enterprise tools, talent, and time frame.

  • Tools: Do you have the tools you need to achieve the use case? What is your data

  • Time: what is your time horizon? It should have short-time frames ( 30-60-90 days) as well as long time frames 3- 5 years. As well as benchmarks. What do you hope to accomplish and when?

  • Talent: How data mature is your enterprise ?: Do you have robust data governance? Does your talent have confidence in data reporting? What is the current state of BI? What is the nimbleness of your enterprise talent for change and data consumption? Is your leadership team ready to lead change?

Phase 3.Working your plan.

The plan for climbing Kilimanjaro involves many swim lanes, logistics, physical training & mindset, and gear. These swim lanes are similar to those found in a data transformation plan. Logistics and equipment are related to tools, physical training, and mindset are the same talent, and the time was point preparation started, that is about three months.

The key to the plan is to have measurement metrics and deadlines for each swim lane and celebrate incremental achievements.

The following example is the ten weeks into a physical training plan.

  • 19 hours of strength training

  • 73 liters of water consumed during training

  • 115 hiking miles

  • 40,000 feet of elevation

  • 2,766 floors climbed on the stair machine (that is equal to climbing one of the NYC twin towers 26.5 times)

There is no way this could happen overnight. The same is true for data transformation, and it takes time and dedication.

As your enterprise considers Data Transformation, give considerable effort to planning the strategy and vision, assessing the current condition, and building a roadmap of incremental successes.

Stay tuned; there are more insights to come from climbing Mt Kilimanjaro.

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