Like many of you, I’m giddy with excitement for the new installment of the Star Wars saga. One of the best things about Star Wars — beside lightsaber duels and spaceship dogfights — is the nuance and depth to the stories and characters. Though it takes place “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away,” there are universal themes that transcend time, such as love, friendship, power, lust, religion, and politics. With the pending advent of Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens, I’ve been thinking about those themes and the lessons we could learn from the Skywalker family (and friends). I’ve also been considering how to apply those lessons to B2B technology and CRM. (Warning: mild spoilers ahead for those who haven’t seen the original 6 episodes of the Star Wars saga)

The Data Surrounds Us and Penetrates Us

Star Wars fans will recognize that the above statement is made about “the Force” and introduces it as a metaphysical, ubiquitous power that binds us together and controls everything. A Jedi knight is taught that by harnessing this power, he’ll be able to do amazing things to help others and be a force for good in the galaxy.

In much the same way, data is the Force for business. It’s all around us, especially in the form of customer data stored in a CRM. It binds the company together, connecting Marketing, Sales, Customer Service, and Finance. Harnessing this data can lead to giant growth and streamline business programs. But it must be done the right way.

The Dark Side of Data

As younglings, Jedis go through significant training to learn how to avoid the Dark Side of the Force and to shun fear and hate. Just as angry and evil use of the Force can turn a Jedi to the Dark Side, so poor treatment and mismanagement of data can turn your CRM into the bad guy. Duplicates, incomplete records, and just plain wrong data can cause Sales and Marketing confusion and dread. Lured by how easy it might be just to enter data quickly and inaccurately, or to buy lists and upload them without proper vetting, your CRM will soon be consumed by fear and anger, resulting in loss and sadness for your business.

Search Your Records, Luke

Luke Skywalker is first drawn to the Jedi way of life when he learns about his father’s heritage as a Jedi master. Obi-Wan Kenobi takes him on as an apprentice and quickly teaches him the basics of manipulating the Force. Even after letting Darth Vader destroy him, Obi-Wan continues teaching Luke with post-mortal whispers of encouragement. One of his most memorable lines was, “Search your feelings, Luke.”

Similarly, to start to truly make data an asset for your business, you need to take a deep look at what’s inside your CRM. You need to understand the purpose for the data — what the business needs are. You also should look at who is using the data and how. Run reports to understand data-usage patterns and figure out which fields and records are most often used. Investigate and use reports to see how much of your data is complete and/or duplicate. By truly searching and assessing your data, you’ll have a better sense of where you should go.

The Data is Strong with This One

Throughout the course of the movies, the Skywalker family is distinguished by their innate power to tap into the Force. Darth Vader first senses Luke’s burgeoning power while attempting to shoot down his x-wing fighter, commenting, “The Force is strong with this one.” Luke’s father, Anakin is also recognized as being strong in the Force when he’s discovered by Jedi on a remote desert planet. In the end, the struggle is all about harnessing that power for good, and learning to check selfish desires for the greater good.

There are several teams and types of people involved in creating, using,and maintaining data for the business. But a strong sense of responsibility to the business and to other teams is what makes an effective, data-centric culture. We may not be able to tap into the Force, but we can all learn how to be strong with data. Putting policies and mechanisms in place for measuring and guarding data quality can help everyone understand and support the importance of data to the business.

Want to help your company become data Jedis? Our Introduction to Data Governance & Stewardship can show you the path. Download the e-book here »