Putting the Business back into Business Intelligence: reduce Data Debt by reconciling IT Department with Finance Professionals

It’s ironic that there are so many technical tools ways to communicate, there are still problems in achieving effective internal communication in companies. This is particularly evidence in relationships between Finance and IT. In this topic, the issues will be explored further  The issue with having so many technical tools is that the quantity of communication may increase, so this can give the appearance that communication is going well. However, the quantity of communication does not always reflect the quality of communication. IT and Finance concepts are difficult for non-specialists to understand, and messages may not be received as they were intended when working across different teams. It is hard for each department to see through the lens of the other department, and this issue can be further exacerbated if there is a culture of blame in place.

What is Data Debt?

Data debt is like technical debt, only visible in bad data, poor data quality, and an underuse of data-oriented technology to help make better decisions. It is the overhang of projects, whether they went well or poorly.

Technical debt is the implied cost of additional rework caused by choosing an easy (limited) solution now instead of using a better approach that would take longer. It also applies to data debt; the  cost of ignoring the data by choosing the quick or easy solution earlier at a previous point, which now takes longer to resolve.

At some point, however, we need to pay back data debt if we are to succeed in making better decisions.

Together, the issues all add up to make data debt, which is often a hot mess which nobody wants to resolve. Businesses can develop the Bystander stance; it is someone else’s problem.

What can you do about data debt?

Finance and IT need one another so that the whole organization can be successful, but there can be issues in communication and priorities that cause divisions. There can be seen very clearly in the sphere of business intelligence, where the business and IT need to work together to produce an essential component of the function of the organization: reporting, data and information flow.

Business Intelligence projects can inherit data debt from previous projects, which means that projects do not start from the starting line. Instead, the projects can start with a deficit before any progress can be made. In the long term, technical debt can exacerbate issues that exist between the Finance and IT departments. Take, for example, the situation where Finance don’t believe that their requirements and priorities are understood properly and that their voice isn’t being ‘heard’ in the IT strategy. From the Finance lens, this situation could be shown where IT won’t respond to support calls quickly enough, for example, or won’t allow the purchase of some new software. On the other hand, IT can hold the viewpoint that Finance are using uncontrolled data sources, such as Excel or Google Sheets spreadsheets. If something goes wrong with these artifacts, Finance team members involve IT to help fix something that they do not own, and inherit the technical debt for something that they did not create. This means that IT can end up owning ‘cottage industry’ artifacts, and this can create frustration. The ‘cottage industry’ artifacts arise partly as a result of Finance not getting the data or the software that they need from IT, so team members create their own data sources. The cycle of frustration between IT and Finance can continue without resolution, and since the pain isn’t owned by either department, there is no real ownership of resolving the issues. Instead, it simply gets absorbed into the business processes and it becomes part of everyday work. The real cost is never identified since it is a productivity cost, and it isn’t measured as stringently as direct costs that people can see or hold.

Conflicts between departments can arise out of differing priorities, but the overall vision should be the same for each department within the organization. As IT pushes forward into new projects, technical debt can be pushed to the side, simply to accumulate. For Finance, this issue can develop into unresolved conflict and ongoing productivity issues, as well as concerns over data governance and data veracity. The reality is that IT and Finance need to work together for the success of the whole organization. There are risks if the departments cannot work together. For example, if the departments cannot work together then this could put security at risk, for example, due to a failure to communicate successfully. Ultimately, this could land the company in court. Other consequences include an adversarial working environment which can make the company unable to recruit and retain key talent. In turn, this can impact technical debt as people leave without resolving it, and it just continues to accumulate. Although it’s hard to quantify, the difficulties in IT and Finance working together will cost the organization money, whether it is calculated in terms of lost productivity, or direct costs such as poor software selection. By contrast, if the teams can work together and work better, then both departments can increase their contribution to the success of the whole organization.

Blueprint for paying back data debt

How can the teams move forward from the impasse? We need to put the business back into business intelligence and move forward, working more collaboratively.  Fundamentally, this is an issue of how information can be tailored to different audiences who are specialists in their own field, and need to work together for a specific outcome that is seen across the organization.

Both Finance and IT departments need to work together to improve understanding and collaboration between each department. Brown bag lunch sessions, where team members present bitesize summaries of relevant concepts to both teams, can provide a good experience of working together for all team members. This may also help to break down stereotypes of the characterization of each department. Further, it can help team members to enlarge their tribe to include people from other teams, as well as their own team.

Finance and IT leaders need to work together and set an example to the rest of the organization. Personal conflicts between department managers is not acceptable, and the dispute will affect processes and practices within the company and disrupt the entire workflow.

Set up an informal wiki or blog, where team members can add every day. This blog can be used to identify the data and the information each department needs every day. By identifying key information, the wiki can be used to help understand each department better, and to share this crucial information in a straightforward, recorded way. This will help the teams to see the impact that they can have on each other, and identify and prioritize effort to maximise benefit.

Creating a community of excellence as a cross-department initiative that has representatives from each department working on joint initiatives, with progress reports and clear objectives. This will take some time to set up, and there may be resistance due to previous projects that have failed or not delivered.

Inherit technical and data debt. Every new IT project should inherit some technical debt from previous It work. This could involve data cleansing, or improved reporting, or the review of a support contract of cloud vendors.

Requirements can be hard to write and accept. One way to increase teamwork is to accept that prototyping is a valid way of developing and articulating what Finance need. Further, it means that IT can take on board It’s considerations, such as security, governance and upgrades. When developing, IT will want to prototype; at first, the efforts will seem awry but constant communication and feedback will be a good investment of time.


It isn’t going to be easy, but it is achievable if the example and direction is set at the Csuite level. Communication is key.

And finally, you can see the end of the data debt.

Book Review: Corporate Finance and Investment: Decisions and Strategies

Corporate Finance And Investment: Decisions & StrategiesCorporate Finance And Investment: Decisions & Strategies by Richard Pike

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book was helpful in helping me to understand the principles of corporate finance, and develop the key tools to apply it in the workplace.
I will probably keep dipping into it throughout my career. It’s well-rounded, covering a range of topics from Islamic Finance to behavioural finance. I think it is a must-read for MBA students.

View all my reviews

Uncensored #AI and #SupplyChain Influencers Jen Stirrup, Rachael White, Sharlyn Lauby and Oliver Christie at #SAPAriba Live

More thought-provoking content from the SAPAriba conference to follow on later posts, but, for now, here is a teaser of some of the uncensored, uncut conversation with thought leaders Rachael White of Cool Logistics, Sharlyn Lauby of HRBartender and Oliver Christie, world-renowned Artificial Intelligence futurist, influencer and leader.

Tune in to this video, and more to follow, for thought-provoking thought leadership; uncut, uncensored, and meaningful.

Many thanks to Gale Daikoku of SAPAriba for the video. Much appreciated Gale and thank you for your support!

DataPlatformSummit: Delighted to be returning to present on #AI and #PowerBI in India!

I am delighted to be presenting at Data Platform Summit 2019 in Bengaluru, India in August 2019!

What is Data Platform Summit? The conference packs a punch of learning and information, and you will get actionable knowledge that you and your company can benefit from – right away! The conference is a well-put together plan of 3 Days of Pre-Conference Training , 3 Days of Conference Learning, 7 Key Technology Tracks, 50+ Global Subject Matter Experts & Industry leaders, 100+ Sessions, 300+ Companies, 1000+ Attendees, 90+ Subjects, 30+ Technologies & an unimaginable flow of intelligence & expertise from friends and colleagues in the industry from around the world.

My sessions are listed here and I am going to fast-track attendees to be empowered to start their company’s journey in Artificial Intelligence and related technologies such as Power BI. The conference covers everything from ingesting data to DevOps, so there is something for everyone and every business to be successful.

Register here before it is too late!


Immersive Reader is now LIVE! New addition to Azure Cognitive Services family

Today, Microsoft launched Immersive Reader, aimed at increasing the opportunities for developers to embed inclusivity in their apps. I love reading, and I love the idea that reading will be brought to people who might otherwise struggle with text reading and comprehension.

You can learn more over at the Azure Cognitive Services website. If you want to get started straight away, here is the Ibiza Portal Create Blade and here’s the Documentation.

Developers have such a unique place in the world, using their creativity to make things better for other people. I’m excited about this journey and let’s see the magic that people create!

SSIS Toolbox components are all missing?! Here’s the fix!

Credit to stux-12364 for the jigsaw image.

When you install SSDT, you can find that the SSIS Toolbox components are all missing.

I am writing this blog for myself BECAUSE I ALWAYS FORGET WHERE IT IS and I am SO ANGRY with myself right now.

Here is what to do:

  • Click on Control Flow
  • Go to the right hand side of the panel and look for the little table thingy
  • Here it is, circled at the right hand side:

SSIS Toolbox

  • Click on it….

And SSIS Toolbox is baaack!

Top 5 Reasons I’m excited about #SAPAribaLive!

I’m delighted to be attending SAP Ariba Live as a Cloud Influencer on 4th to 6th June in Barcelona. In case you missed it, it looks an extremely exciting conference with amazing conference. I’m going because it aligns with my interests in a number of key ways and I’m going to point you to a few of my must-dos for the conference. The theme of ethics, diversity and leadership is present in many sessions, which is something I’m passionate about! Also, there are many great conference sessions, and I’m excited about learning a lot of new things.

SAP Ariba have invited Amal Clooney to give the keynote and I cannot wait to hear how she believes businesses can make things better for human rights through ethics and leadership. Make sure you’re in the audience when human rights lawyer, professor, and international law expert Amal Clooney gives the keynote address, sharing her perspective on how businesses can promote human rights. I believe that businesses can do so much more than think about profits and I believe in the triple-bottom-line for my own company and I do think about the full cost of doing business, including ethics, environment and social responsibility. There is a good mix of male and female speakers and that’s a sign that the conference is welcoming. Having run conferences myself, I believe that a good mixed audience brings about a better atmosphere since people try harder, and it gives the conference a good ‘feel’.

Following on from that point, there is also a Diversity and Leadership Forum on the topic of ‘Creating Balanced Leadership’ and I’m looking forward to it immensely. I’m glad that it has a mix of male and female panelists because people often assume that diversity just means women, but it does not. Diversity means everybody; we all have diversity in common. I am looking forward to learning a lot during this session.

I am definitely attending a session with Yves Mulkers, whom I admire greatly. I was lucky enough to meet Yves very briefly in Belgium a few years ago. I’ve been learning from Yves for a long time on social media, and I think he has a lot of good things to say on many topics.

There is an interesting session entitled ‘Mind Your Bias and Shift from Advocacy to Action‘ with Etosha Thurman, Head of Global Business Network at SAP Ariba. I think that this sounds a thought-provoking session and I’m looking forward to it. I think it sounds a good investment of time since it will provide insights on building and maintaining better teams.

I’m interested to learn more about how artificial intelligence can drive service and procurement business processes with conversational Artificial Intelligence solutions such as chatbots and voice assistants. This is a very forward-thinking topic and I am keen to learn about how SAP Ariba solutions and chatbots can help manage procurement processes.

On the way back home from Belgium this evening, I was reading a book about Adlerian psychology, and I was focusing on a part that discussed how we can’t let our pasts dictate our future. Then, going through the SAP Ariba agenda, I find this topic: Don’t Let the Past Dictate Your Future: Transform the Procurement Mind-Set and I’m sure it was meant just for me! I am interested in digital transformation and I think that this is a key session.

There are many other great sessions to choose from, but these topics are personal highlights for me. If you’re attending SAP Ariba Live, which sessions will you attend? Leave a note in the comments! On Thursday 6th June, the focus is on The Agile and Intelligent Enterprise, and I’m interested in understanding more how businesses can adapt to master and be successful in an era of massive disruption with changes in society, politics, economy, environment, and technology. Organizations must be agile to adapt and take advantage of technologies to future proof the business and become an intelligent enterprise, and I think that there will be lots of great learning and conversation on this topic. There are different types of breakouts for different learning and engagement styles, so you can have a browse here.

See you there! I’m excited to meet other Cloud Influencer such as Ronald van Loom. Here is the full list below!

SAPAriba Jen Stirrup