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Why do we need Data Governance?

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  • Why do we need Data Governance?

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    “Buddy and the Rolodex that no-one could use…” OR “Why do we need Data Governance?”
    In 1958, Buddy Karlson was a Car Salesman. He was a good car salesman, in fact he was so good he had won the best Car Salesman of the year in Pennsylvania for Five years in a row!

    Buddy was particularly good at getting repeat business from his customers. He sold several cars to each customer he had on his books, he sold more cars to customers wives than any other salesman in the North-East of America and he seemed to know exactly when each child of his customers got their driving licence.

    In fact, he was so good that each year he would have picked up the sales award based on his repeat business alone! Head Office wondered how he achieved this and asked him to spend three days with them in late February 1958. Unfortunately, whilst driving to Detroit, Buddy was in a car accident and was fatally injured.

    Six months after his passing, the regional manager called into Buddy’s old dealership in Pittsburgh and started to reminisce with the sales team there. The dealership was not doing well. Jeff, the regional manager, had expected some fall-off through the loss of his good friend and star salesman Buddy. He also expected the others to be affected by his passing; however, the dealership was really struggling.

    America in the fifties was a very competitive place and no more so than in Car sales, where you worked on commission from the company and the dealership.
    While recalling a particularly big sale where Buddy sold three cars to the same family in September 1957, Jeff asked the team what was Buddy’s secret and they all said the same thing “His Rolodex”.

    (For those of you who don’t know, a rolodex is a card filing system. Each card contains information about a unique item such as a product, a customer or a supplier)
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    Jeff went into the store-room and found Buddy’s old Rolodex. He started to flick through it and found it was a complete list of his customers. He also saw that each card had different colour-coded stickers all over it.

    Each card had the name of a customer, their address, phone number, dates of sales as well as the stickers. “⓬◊□∞SR£*”

    Buddy had developed his own code to maintain good relationships with his existing customers and boost his sales. Jeff asked the team if they knew what these codes were.

    Each of them recognised a couple.The number was the month of the year Buddy last sold to the customer and at the start of each month he would call those with the matching month to them to ask if they were happy with their car and say something like ‘Did you know that cars have a lot more features now than they did when you bought that from me three years ago, why don’t you come by and I will show you”

    The diamond seemed to indicate that the customer was married or about to get married, so in the fall he would ring and ask what gift he was planning to give his wife or girlfriend for Christmas.

    The more Jeff talked to the team, the more he realised the coloured stickers were the secret to Buddy’s success. He asked the team to spend some time talking to Buddy’s customers and over a period of three months they put together the “Buddy Karlson book of sales techniques” where the process behind each symbol and its colour was documented in detail.

    The team also started to add their own symbols based on the codes they used and even improved on some of Buddy’s own techniques. They realised that if they all followed the same codes and pooled their resources the amount of commission each of them received would increase as the number of cars sold by the dealership increased.

    Jeff went to Detroit in February 1959 and presented the contents of the book to Head Office. Within weeks everyone working for the company had a copy of the “BK Sales Click image for larger version  Name:	14.JPG Views:	1 Size:	9.0 KB ID:	114 Guide” and the company not only increased sales to existing customers but through word of mouth, their customers passed on how good the company was to deal with and sales to new customers rose by 50%.

    The company was so pleased it re-named the dealership the Bud Karlson Dealership and provided a scholarship fund to the local school. They also set up a team to canvass the sales teams throughout America for their codes and their best practice.

    Since then the guide has continued to expand, all new sales staff are coached in the codes and processes as part of their induction. The last paper version of the guide was produced in 1999, and nowadays every salesman has a copy of the codes, their meanings and the processes to follow in an App on their smartphone which also provides reminders when to call customers and the reason why to call them.

    The App is updated twice a year. A team in Head Office curates the guide and governs the codes. They know what each code means and what should happen when a code is associated to a customer’s account. Salesmen are now incentivised on making improvements to the guide and each year the “Bud Karlson Sales innovation award” is presented to the person who provides the best update.

    Jeff has now retired, but talking at the award ceremony last week, said, “By sharing The Bud Karlson Sales Guide, it codes and processes across the whole company; the central knowledge team has set us up for success. We know every sales team will follow the same process and we will make lifetime friends with our customers which in turn will ensure our continued success”.

    Can you imagine what would have happened if Jeff has not investigated the Rolodex?
    • The successful sales techniques of Bud Karlson would have been lost forever
    • The knowledge he had gathered to win those awards would never have been shared
    • The nationwide sales team would not be trained in the collective best practice of ALL its Sales teams
    • And the company would not have been able to grow as quickly and as profitably as it did
    If you can capture the knowledge that exists within a company, codify it, understand its variations and why they exist and apply them to your processes the benefits to your business will be significant.

    Data, Codes and the processes that use them are one of the most valuable assets a business has. If there is no Central Data Governance team to facilitate the sharing of information and best practice, your business is at risk of losing best practice to increase sales, reduce costs and increase productivity.
    Paul Lunn, October 2017

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    Paul Lunn has been and Independent Consultant and Managing Director of Lunn Consultants since 2012.
    With over 35 years’ experience of change in Finance, Banking and Insurance, Paul has worked to deliver business change as a programmer, systems analyst, project leader, account manager, senior business analyst and consultant.
    Drawing on his real-life experiences of change (from strategy definition to implementation and beyond), Paul is now sharing best practice through consultancy work, lecturing and is currently developing an on-line course to promote best practice for professionals involved in change.
    For further information, please contact Paul at
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