Contextual Data Management: A Data-Driven Experience

As people get used to more and more personalized experiences — like Netflix recommendations or travel suggestions based on previous searches — we, the friends of data, need to provide more of that contextual data to our consumers.

What do we mean by that?

Our CEO, for example, needs a complete picture of who he is interacting with. Is it a customer or a supplier? Or both? What is the history of interaction with SAP? What are the company’s publicly stated goals? We are also a customer of the business partner, hence he is also our supplier.

See how complex it gets? Now imagine that SAP has more than 100,000 employees and everyone is creating networks, leaving the associated data traces on every spot of the process map —  you will have an idea of what we as data experts need to manage and deliver.

We need to provide that targeted, customized data in an easily digestible view. We call this process contextual data management.

In order to serve all these processes, we need to find out what the most important entities are and how they make up a data value chain that fuels our processes and enables company steering. By serving those business goals and processes, we help ensure that our data projects are business outcome-driven.

Our Enterprise Data Management team needed to develop a strategy and then an approach to manage the data value chain:

  • Understand the end-to-end business processes and the data value chain, establish data communities around it, and identify relevant data as the connector between processes
  • Abstract the data in the context of the business needs, including describing the data value chain in the system
  • Manage the data with the clear goal of trusted data, including building IT and data roadmaps
  • Execute and fuel business processes and company steering, including defining thresholds and event triggering for data exceptions

The approach is cyclical—once through the execute phase, we roll back through the Understand phase.

Contextual Data Management slide

This week in Toronto, I shared the details at the Chief Data & Analytics Officers summit , while Tina Rosario, data chef at SAP specializing in data strategy, will be sharing the strategies at the Data2020 summit in Stockholm.

To help develop a data strategy, SAP offers a free outcome-driven data strategy master class with SAP’s Maria C. Villar as the instructor. The class is offered online and can be done at a participant’s own pace. Along with videos for the class, a workbook that includes exercises, resources, and templates is also included. The master class is developed from experiences in our in-person workshops. Feedback from those exclusive workshops has been phenomenal, including these quotes:

  • “Really liked discussions around the development of a data strategy as well as business case development, in addition, how to build and engage the organization around a data strategy.”
  • “Very well aligned with our organization’s current initiatives and follows my understanding of best practices.”
  • “Very interesting discussions! I think going through use cases provides better insights on how one’s data strategy could be developed.”

Because the demand for this data strategy leadership was very high, we decided to offer it for free online.

Cardinal Health offered its perspective on the approach: “The business-rich narrative from a business outcome focus is the secret sauce that brings executives to the table.  With a data strategy, executives really understand the power — and work — of data.” — Mike Alvarez, Director, Information & Machine Learning Architecture.

Preview the approach for contextual data management at

Rouven Morato Adam is chief data and analytics officer at SAP.