Last updated: October 21st, 2020
While it’s easy to see why data has become so important to modern businesses, there are hazards that organizations must also take into account. With new risks and pitfalls appearing daily as technology evolves, it’s no surprise that data security is usually at the top of the priority list.
In truth, though, security is only one part of the equation. For any organization to properly harness the full power of data, it must also prioritize data accuracy and data integrity. Once an organization can guarantee the data’s accuracy, it needs to apply that data correctly to produce desired business outcomes. This is where the real-time concept comes into play; information has a shelf life, and it’s shockingly short in today’s fast-moving business environment.
Why data accuracy matters
Put simply, data provides insight. It is the foundation on which business stakeholders make decisions. These decisions don’t just come from upper management, either. People make decisions across the entire business all day, every day, which means that they need access to accurate data at every level.
However, data is rarely useful in its raw state; organizations must process and present data in a way that works on the appropriate levels so that users can apply it properly. The latest analytics tools make this part much easier, but there is still a journey that information must follow before it’s usable across the enterprise.
If data accuracy levels are low at the start of this process, the insight will be lacking and the decisions it influences are likely to be poor as a result. This is why organizations must realize that quality is more important than quantity; too many focus only on gathering as much information as possible without thinking about whether it’s correct and how to use it. Add to this the question of whether the organization can actually trust its data, and you have the issue of integrity to consider as well.
Are you relying on accurate information to make important business decisions?
Why data integrity is a must
There’s no getting away from the fact that data comes from everywhere today. To name just a few examples, there are mobile devices, loyalty cards, customer relationship management (CRM) systems, social media sites, GPS location data, complex market research tools, IoT devices, and the list goes on. The source pool for data is still growing with no end in sight.
With all of this in mind, data governance must be a priority for the enterprise. Not only is data streaming in from all directions, but it arrives in various formats: everything from numbers and formulas to individual words and pieces of text.
This poses a significant challenge for businesses that have not chosen a data management platform to deal with all these disparate data sources. It is all too common to find businesses in which some staff relies on their own spreadsheets and word documents while other, more data-competent team members put their faith in advanced data visualization tools. This kind of disparity causes its own set of unique problems – and can even make data useless.
Unless every data-using employee is using the same data management platform and process, auditability will always be a chore at best. Unless everyone is on the same page, the reliability of information cannot be adequately determined, and when this is the case, it should not be used to influence decisions. At the very least, decision-makers need to know about the data heritage and the (lack of) confidence they can place in this information.
The solution to this is governance. Information has to be available to everyone, and while data discovery tools offer this kind of data democratization, there is still a need for central control. An organization’s use of data can’t be limited to the IT department, but in order to ensure integrity on the whole, the IT staff should be in control of the overall data governance protocols in place organization-wide.
Data is pouring into your organization from multiple, disparate sources every second of every day.
The time it takes experts to generate actionable insight from raw data has always been a stumbling block, especially when organizations adopt the older BI model. Data is undoubtedly the business’ single greatest asset, but its usefulness decreases over time. It’s not enough to embrace information. Now, organizations must use it quickly – or even instantly.
The windows of opportunity in which businesses have to make their decisions – both major and minor – are narrowing. When sales team members are out talking to clients, for example, they must be able to draw on the facts and figures that are up-to-date and that support their cases then and there instead of having to wait for days, or even longer, until it’s ready. It’s this instant access that enables a firm to get ahead of its competitors or keep up with them at the very least.
Responsiveness is also an important factor for firms to consider. To be truly competitive in most industries, companies must be in a position to respond to what’s going on around them – whether this involves the actions of a competitor, the behavior of clients, or a major world event. It’s this kind of agility that separates a good business from a truly innovative one.
Team members need access to real-time data wherever they are to remain agile and competitive in a fast-moving business environment.
The danger of inaccurate data
Companies that utilize sophisticated data-led insights can’t simply rest on their laurels and marvel at a job well done, however. Inaccuracies in the data can quickly escalate from a minor issue into something that compromises all the hard work and effort previously invested. Analysts (among them Joel Curry of Experian QAS UK and Ireland) have noted that accurate data can drive efficiency, profitability, and growth. Inaccurate data, on the other hand, can cause real detriment to a business and its bottom line.
Inaccuracies in data can stem from something as simple and seemingly innocuous as one person using data discovery while a second focuses instead on Excel or standard reports. It could even simply be under-briefed employees using slightly disparate terminology which throws their data out of sync.
As innocent and accidental as this all sounds, the impact could be huge. A recent survey of more than 1,100 C-level executives and finance professionals by accounting software provider Blackline and independent research firm Censuswide noted that 40% of respondents attributed their lack of confidence in the accuracy of their financial figures to being overwhelmed by so many data sources – nearly as many as cited human errors (41%). The same survey revealed that 69% of respondents believe they or their CEO have made a significant business decision based on out-of-date or incorrect financial data. The question is, at what cost?
What decisions are you and your organization making right now based on inaccurate or out-of-date data? How are those decisions impacting your bottom line?
How to solve the data management dilemma
There is a way to address organizational data challenges. A modern, integrated data management platform can help you with real-time data integration and ensure data accuracy and integrity. Such a platform can also enable organization-wide data democratization, while helping you maintain a strong data governance policy that ensures continued data integrity. ibi works with businesses every day to help them harness the power of their data.
Vincent Deeney is senior director of Global Strategic Services at ibi. He leads the team that supports analytics, data integration, and data governance. He brings almost twenty years of experience in the data integration and data management space, including data quality and master data management.