Beck’s Hybrids — Planting the Data Governance Seed and Watching it Grow

Beck’s Hybrids — Planting the Data Governance Seed and Watching it Grow

Agriculture is a way of life for Beck’s Hybrids. As the third-largest seed company in the U.S., Beck’s built its business on helping farmers succeed. Through innovation, both in product and in process, Beck’s strives to remain true to who they are – farmers at heart.

Beck’s built its business on data, using it not just to inform product innovation, but also to fuel business growth. What started with a single tech employee and some AS/400 flat files quickly grew. Today, Beck’s employs a team of 90 people who support 750 terabytes of space and 460 servers. And those numbers are only set to grow. Not only does Beck’s expect the amount of seed corn planted to increase but it also anticipates the volume of data will double within the next three to five years.

Planting the data governance seed

Over the years, Beck’s evolved its use of data and developed new systems to support it. But over this time, one thing didn’t change – the company’s sales logic. That is, until 2022 when everything changed. Beck’s embarked on an initiative to modernize its systems and logic, with the goal of making it more dealer-friendly and improving the UI/UX.

What quickly became evident was that changing the sales logic – and the systems that support it – would break the existing reports that leadership and managers across the business relied on to monitor the business and make decisions. And because the number of definitions they needed to capture was expanding, it became increasingly difficult for the data team to answer questions about the location, meaning, ownership, and quality of the data.

To support the new sales logic, the data team quickly determined that it needed to develop a common data language, focusing its efforts on report certification for leadership-level reports.

These reports quickly emerged as a top priority given the reach and frequency of use by decision-makers across the organization. The first order of business was to look at the accessibility of business-critical data including data that has high value, is used frequently, and is difficult to find. At Beck’s, this includes data used in daily sales reports, monthly email reports, and annual year-over-year check-ins on movement.

Once the team identified the top-priority data elements, the next step was to ensure they were using consistent data language across all in-house systems. Instead of taking a “boil the ocean” approach, it prioritized the data elements that were used most frequently in priority reports. That way, the team could deliver a positive experience for users by quickly showing progress for high-value, business-critical, and hard-to-access data.

Water it with relationships and communications

Establishing strong relationships is the foundation for a successful data transformation. Beck's data team believed that investing the time to establish relationships before they built the solutions would drive better outcomes. And they were right.

The team acknowledged that the way to establish a data culture is through care and partnership. They created an organizational structure that fostered a strong data culture by engaging representation from all levels of the organization, including leadership, management, business, and technology. Each representative played a crucial role in the project, adding value in support of the overall project goals.

In addition, the team partnered with the internal education department to develop programs that engaged cross-functional users so they sustain their use of data. Their curriculum included topics ranging from data governance to reporting content, giving participants a broad view of data and how they can apply it within their roles. They also created data-based onboarding for new employees, trained sales teams, and spoke with dealers during Dealer Business Management Week sessions about their data initiatives.

Support it with the right solutions

Dealers and partners are an essential part of Beck's business. It is for this reason that Beck’s only works with partners who embody its core beliefs and commitments to put customers first and help farmers succeed.

This same philosophy extended to the organization’s evaluation of data governance solution providers. It wanted a partner who would:

  • Align with its core values and beliefs

  • Focus on delivering an outstanding customer experience

  • Deliver connectivity with ease of use

  • Invest in agile co-builders to accelerate growth

In addition to the right values, Beck’s also needed a partner who could deliver the data governance capabilities it needed to put self-service in the hands of the users. And, it had to be easy for the business to understand the role and importance of capabilities such as business glossaries, data dictionaries, data lineage, and report catalogs.

Beck’s selected DataGalaxy as its solution. Using DataGalaxy’s Data Knowledge Catalog, Beck’s could deliver on the vision of delivering a common data language that empowered self-service for everyone across the business to access the information they need to become truly data-driven.

DataGalaxy delivered the critical capabilities Beck’s needed, including: 

  • A business glossary to create a centralized repository of key business KPIs and data definitions that was easy to access and provided context to all users.

  • A data dictionary to capture technical metadata from across its SQL-based technology ecosystem. The team trained and provided privileged access to those who needed it so they knew how and what to access. 

  • Data lineage to understand and create end-to-end lineage to show how data flows within the technology ecosystem and how it changes over time.

  • A report catalog that allowed the team to build a library of reports that would enable users to track each report back to its source, giving them confidence that each report was backed by trusted data.

Watch the Data Governance Strategy grow

With a strong foundation built on relationships, education, and technology, the team at Beck’s was ready to tackle its data governance implementation and watch the fruits of its labor grow. 

The team prioritized empowering business users – and the data team – with the ability to develop trusted reports for decision-makers. It made it easy for users to understand the business context of the data, the underlying systems and application data lineage, the ownership structure, and related attributes at-a-glance.

Beck’s also made it easy for the data team to connect with the business. Using intelligent data knowledge, the organization was able to bridge the gap between business and technology teams by creating common data understanding alongside simple maintenance and effective adoption.

Finally, the team prioritized education and adoption, both of which are key to its success. Through regular communication, the data team was able to actively engage and collaborate with business users to add value and insights. 

Key takeaways

The team at Beck’s not only successfully transformed its data operations but also stayed true to the values and the desire to run the business on data. When we asked them what advice they have for others looking to embark on a similar journey, they offered three pieces of wisdom: 

  1. Don’t put data before the person. Develop strong bonds between business colleagues, technology teams, and partners. 

  2. Remember, it takes time, patience, and persistence. To start building an appreciation for data, you must first plant the seed. Nurture it and watch it grow.

  3. Be inclusive. When you include users as part of your data governance journey, you teach them to fish. And you know what they say about people who can fish…

Data transformations, while challenging, are critical on the road to realizing greater value from your data. And having the right partner by your side is key to your success. With its innovative approach to data cataloging, DataGalaxy helps businesses of all sizes to improve data literacy and create a data culture that powers better decisions, improves customer experiences, and propels growth.

Discover how DataGalaxy can help your organization enable self-service, increase data literacy, and drive a data-first culture. Visit where you can also read the full story of Beck’s data governance journey.

About the Author:

Kash Mehdi is the VP of Growth at DataGalaxy (the industry’s first data knowledge catalog). He spent the last decade scaling go-to-market functions at hyper-growth SaaS companies. Mehdi was Collibra’s 5th employee from its startup phase to achieving a multi-billion dollar valuation and with Informatica when it first entered the data governance space to its 2021 IPO achievement.

The data industry realizes Mehdi’s contributions as he continues to deliver data intelligence solutions worldwide to numerous customers and partners. He brings a wealth of international data management experience and has spent several years leading markets across North America, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America.

As more customers seek to unlock the value of their data assets, and with data volumes doubling at an unprecedented rate, Mehdi helps organizations democratize data knowledge and unlock competitive and monetary benefits.

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