Get the data basics right

Toni Sekinah, research analyst and features editor, DataIQ

Get the basics right, use incoming regulation as a stimulus to innovate, and choose the right tools to manage the data. Those are the three key conclusions drawn by credit reference agency Experian from a recent survey, "Embracing the data challenge in a digitalised world". 

Experian research - top factors shaping data strategy

Paul Malyon, data strategy manager at Experian Data Quality, gave examples of how organisations can get the basics right by focusing on data quality. He said they should test email addresses and mobile phone numbers to make sure they are genuine, regularly validate email and mobile data to make sure they are still deliverable and usable as well as look at suppressions. Malyon said that, “the basics are absolutely critical” and data-driven organisations should ask themselves the question: “Are we doing everything we can to ensure the quality of that data?

"30% of current customer or prospect data was thought to be inaccurate."

The survey of one thousand employees from the UK, US, Brazil and Australia found that, on average, 30% of current customer or prospect data was thought to be inaccurate. This would have a negative impact on consumers as almost seven in ten respondents believed that inaccurate data will undermine their ability to deliver excellent customer service.

The second conclusion is that regulation can be a jumping off point for innovation. Malyon said that, with GDPR and e-privacy regulation coming in later this year, organisations have a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” to reassess their data strategies. He said that research has shown that the more someone trusts a brand with their data, the more likely they are to share it.

As such, GDPR creates an ideal catalyst to ensure that data management is in order. Malyon said that organisations should focus on things like single customer view, having the right platforms, processes, tools and training in place. He said: “GDPR is a good supporting tool to do the kinds of things that may have been pushed back in the past around data management and data governance.”

The survey revealed that regulation is one of the top three factors that influence how their data strategy is shaped for only 27% of organisations. Data security, customer experience and speed at which the data is needed by the business are the most commonly-reported top three.

“If those tools are not usable and are locked in IT, that can slow us down."

Experian research - who owns the data in your organisationThe final conclusion was that organisations should choose “tools that will empower the organisation.” The survey revealed that more data is owned by the CEO in comparison to last year. This poses the challenge of having the right tools to perform several functions - to find inaccuracies, to rank the data and to use the data. Therefore, it is imperative that data tools are easy to use and accessible to staff outside of IT.

“If those tools are not usable and they are locked in IT, that can slow us down because IT has got other stuff to do,” said Malyon. The research revealed that the IT department owns the data within 45% of organisations, while for 25% it is the CEO, and for 19% it is the CIO.

Malyon said: “Overall, it is an encouraging story that things seem to be improving and we are seeing a shift of data ownership from IT over to the business. That’s a good thing.”

One of the most insightful statistics assessed data maturity from 2016 to 2017. With four levels where A is least to D the most mature, respondents were asked to rate the maturity of their organisation.

Experian diagram - data maturity assessment from 2016 to 2017"More attention is being paid to the people, process and technology behind data.”

The graph shows a spike in category B in 2016, but in 2017 there seemed to be a much more even distribution. I wondered if this indicated that companies had reassessed their data quality maturity and, upon reflection, some were more mature than they thought, while others were less mature than they initially thought.

Malyon agreed. “If we reflect on the UK, the fact that everyone’s having to plan their approach to the GDPR means that there is more attention being paid to the people, process and technology behind their data.”

He said: “They will be taking a long, hard look at what they’ve been doing, they will be reassessing the assumptions they’ve made, checking their data readiness for things like GDPR and yes, perhaps they are seeing that where they thought their processes were good, they need to revisit those.”