Moving Data from an IT Issue to a Business Imperative

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Click to learn more about author Kevin W. McCarthy.

We all know businesses are trying to do more with their data, but inaccuracy and general Data Management issues are getting in the way. For most businesses, the status quo for managing data is not working. However, there is new research that shows data is moving from a knee-jerk, “must be IT’s issue” conversation, to a “how can the business better leverage this rich (and expensive) data resource we have at our fingertips” conversation. 

The emphasis is on “conversation” – business and IT need to communicate in the new age of Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and Interactive Analytics. Roles and responsibilities are blurring, and there is an expectation that a company’s data will quickly turn from a cost-center of IT infrastructure to a revenue-generator for the business.

In order to address the issues of control and poor Data Quality, there needs to be an ever-increasing bridge between IT and the business. This bridge has two component parts. First is technology, which is both sophisticated enough to handle complex data issues but easy enough to provide a quick time-to-value. Second is people that can bridge the gap between IT systems/storage/access items and business users need for value and results (enter data analysts and data engineers).

This bridge needs to be built with three key components in mind:

  1. Customer Experience: For any B2C (Business-to-Consumer) company, customer experience is the #1 hot topic of the day and a primary way they are leveraging data. A new 2019 Data Management benchmark report finds 98% of companies use data to improve customer experience. And for good reason – between social media, digital streaming services, online retailers and others, companies are looking to show the consumer that they aren’t just a corporation, but their “BFF” (Best Friend Forever!). This invariably involves creating a single customer view (SCV), and as we’ve talked about in prior articles, that view needs to be built around context and based on the needs of the specific department within the business (accounts payable, marketing, customer service, etc.). 
  1. Trust in Data: Having data and trusting data are two completely different things. Lots of companies have lots of data, but that doesn’t mean they are happy with it, or trust it enough to make business-critical decisions with it. Research finds that on average, organizations suspect 29% of current customer/prospect data is inaccurate in some way. In addition, 95% of organizations see impacts in their organization from poor quality data. A lack of trust in the data available to business users paralyzes decisions, and even worse, impacts the ability to make the right decisions based on faulty assumptions. How often have you received a report and questioned the results? More than you’d like to admit, I’m sure. To get around this hurdle, organizations need to drive culture change around Data Quality strategies and methodologies. Only by completing a full assessment of data, developing a strategy to address the existing and ongoing issues, and implementing a methodology to execute on that strategy, will companies be able to turn the corner from data suspicion to data trust.
  2. Changing Data Ownership: The responsibilities between IT and the business are blurring. 70% of businesses say not having direct control over data impacts their ability to meet strategic objectives. The reality is that the definitions of control are throwing people off. IT thinks of control as storage, systems, and security. The business thinks of control as access, actionable and accurate. The role of the CDO is helping to bridge this gap, bringing the nuts-and-bolts of IT in line with the visions and aspirations of the business. 

The bottom line is that, for most companies, data is still a shifting sea of storage, software stacks and stakeholders. The stakeholders are the key, both from IT and the business, and in how the two can come together to provide the oxygen the business needs to survive – better customer experience, more personalization, and an ongoing trust in the data they administrate to make the best decisions to grow their companies and delight their customers.

My take is to keep developing a data quality culture within your company, and hire as many “DQ geeks” as you can! The company with the most mastery of their own data will win!

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