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Working across teams

Working across different teams:

Managing and stewarding data within organizations requires increased collaboration across silos. Data is a key focus for Business, Risk, Privacy, IT, and Security teams with each team holding critical pieces of the organization’s overall strategy around Data. Additionally, buy-in from other data-intensive parts of the organization like Marketing, Sales, Finance, and HR will be critical for programs to successfully manage and govern Data.

Most organizations recognize this and have tried to enable a cross-functional response to address this. Typically, there is an effort to define roles and responsibilities around Data across all key stakeholders. Buy-in is sought from the leadership of the different teams on overall data strategy and objectives. A steering committee or a privacy committee is also formed to execute the strategy. However, we have seen this is not as successful as organizations would like it to be. A recent survey in the CPO magazine that had 471 responses from 16 industries highlights the same observation. Half of the organizations view budgets and cohesion across all business units as their top challenges.

So why is establishing a cohesive strategy around data such a big challenge? Cross-functional collaboration is difficult in practice for a few key reasons.

1. Ensuring alignment

How do you ensure there is real alignment across functions when they have different and maybe even competing priorities? Alignment cannot be achieved with just monthly or bi-weekly steering committee meetings. We have observed teams view collaboration as important, but their actual collaboration is limited due to a lack of a clear understanding of shared goals and progress. Teams also have limited visibility to semi-to-fully independent efforts in other teams to address similar issues – this is especially true in the Privacy, Security, and IG space. These can lead to confusion and conflicts around approach and priority resulting in an ineffective situation for all stakeholders.

A common example of repeated work is current state assessments performed independently by different groups. The assessments often only slightly differ in objectives and focus, and it is clear groups are unaware that large portions of what they were seeking were already available. Similarly, different groups have inconsistent and even conflicting metrics, standards, and policies around data. The metrics, along with great resources that the teams have developed over time, also often reside in different internal web pages, SharePoint folders, or portals. An outcome of such repeated efforts is that privacy compliance becomes a very expensive process.

2. Fear of failing metrics and the need to look good.

Issues identified on dashboards are often opportunities for improvement, but there is a strong desire to make all metrics look good (i.e., do not want to see red on a dashboard). This is especially true in cross-functional teams – areas needing improvement might make one team look worse than others. Instead of tracking and addressing these within the cross-functional setting, we see a tendency for teams to provide reasons why they should not be addressed there. These aspects are reclassified as not cross-functional and get moved out of the cross-functional metrics into an internal team setting. This results in a filtered portrayal of the current state and prevents organizations from making data-driven decisions.

3. Lack of understanding

Sometimes a program implemented by one part of the organization can make it difficult to implement changes in another part of the organization. Some “quick win” efforts may make long-term sustainable change difficult. Complex problems such as privacy or information governance require solutions to be rolled out in a particular sequence for it to be effective. Some of these might be easier while others may be difficult to implement but necessary to ensure long-term success. Without a shared understanding across the different stakeholders, it is difficult for organizations to solve these challenges.

Steps for success

For cross-functional teams to be aligned and motivated, it’s important that they

  • Understand the current state across all teams

  • Be able to see the same data

  • Be clear on what needs to be achieved

  • See how each team is contributing to the same effort (in other words how the efforts are intertwined)

This type of transparency will allow teams to come together, understand each other and help them to engage effectively.

Given the current state where teams are also working remotely, it is critical to have a technology platform that enables all teams to see the same and complete picture of the current state, key risks, and goals. Just like mapping apps on our smartphones, we find our DataMap app has been effective in enabling cross-functional teams to come together. It is important to have a DataMap that integrates many sources of information in a meaningful and easy-to-use format. The DataMap brings clarity to the current state and helps cross-functional teams articulate this to the rest of the organization. You no longer need to wait until the next meeting or conversation to understand key issues – these are available instantaneously and live.


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