Helping the North Pole become Data Driven

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‘Twas the night before Quarter End
And all through the shop
The elves were crunching data
They needed answers chop, chop!

-Excerpt from The Night Before Quarter End

Santa’s data is big. It’s really big. Not only does he have individual behavioral events for every naughty and nice thing the 7 billion people in the world have done for the year (and previous years! More on that soon…), he also has unstructured wish lists, optimal sleigh flight paths, Reindeer health records, instructions for the elves to create increasingly complicated toys, and on and on. Naturally, the data is still mostly silo’d as individual systems sprung up over the years, making obtaining any sort of 360-degree view very difficult!

As you know, Elves make pretty good data scientists- maybe it’s their inquisitive nature, maybe it’s the magical aspects of their very existence. Plus, their hundreds of years of experience in delivering behavior-based goodies to the children of the world makes them the leading subject matter experts. However, years of legacy systems, poor data entry, and poorly integrated systems means much of their time is spent simply making the data work. When their Chief Data Officer recommended they seek outside work to assist in fixing up some of their data, Santa reviewed his consulting firm naughty and nice list, and settled on UDig based on his positive experience with some prior work our North Pole office had done for him.

UDig initially engaged the North Pole for a quick quality assessment of some of their critical data. Profiling data from their Behavioral IOT dataset (primarily from behavior sensors embedded in Elves on your ShelvesTM), UDig found that the data was fairly well structured, but careless data entry in many ancillary applications (especially their CRM) was wreaking havoc downstream. As we all know, poor data in means poor data out. We found duplicate entries (some lucky kids got double gifts!), incorrect birthdates (which resulted in at least one Grandmother receiving a Yo Gabba Gabba DVD set in 2015!), and much more.

After some deliberation (and with the end of the year looming!), UDig and the North Pole decided to narrow the scope to a pilot Master Data Management project to both remediate some of the quality issues now and into the future, and to establish a strong foundation for a proper Data Governance Coalition moving forward. Customer data could now be centralized, and maintained at a higher level of quality through the application of business rules and quality remediation processes and procedures. Now Santa truly only has to check his list once because he can trust his data.

Like many organizations, the North Pole’s data problems are big. Legacy systems, poor quality processes, poor integrations and many other issues have left them with data that can be difficult to trust. With their first win under their belt, however, the North Pole has set themselves up for success into the future by focusing on remediating their data and building a data-driven culture. They know there isn’t a single magic bullet out there, and that it unfortunately takes discipline. They also know that the volume of data they have will never be smaller than it is at this moment, and it’s time to act now.

He sprang to his sleigh, clean report in his hand
He exclaimed to the night echoing through the land
“The records are clean, the solution out of beta!
Clean records for all, and for all better data!”

About The Author

Steve MacLauchlan is the Director of Data in Richmond. More than anything, he loves solving problems collaboratively with our clients and building lasting relationships. He believes data is the key to the future, and the ability to leverage it is paramount to remaining competitive.