It is pretty clear that the way businesses perceive the value of data is maturing rapidly. This is demonstrated in the results of our latest global research project, where 84% of those surveyed said their organisation now sees data as an integral part of forming their business strategy. However, they are being held back by their uncertainty over how to achieve this.
To begin to turn data management aspirations into actions, businesses need to consider how the inter-connected balance of having the right people, processes and technology is essential in progressing forward. A key issue among organisations is that they look for a data quality fix for a single reason - perhaps to comply with laws and regulations - rather than considering a wider data management strategy that addresses the needs of the whole business.
But using technology to provide a quick fix on its own isn’t enough. If businesses really want to get on top of their data and release its true value, their data strategy needs to take a holistic approach and align to business objectives.
It is vital that business have the right people in data-centric roles as they can inform the data strategy, embed a data-driven culture and help improve data quality. It’s encouraging to see from this year’s results that there’s a strong interest in data-centric roles and a willingness to invest in hiring them. In the 2016 Global Data Management Benchmark study, more than four-fifths (82%) said they are looking to employ data specialists as part of their data management strategy, with 42% intending to hire a data analyst.
Critically, data needs a leader and 31% said they manage their data strategy through a single director. According to Gartner, since 2006, the number of chief data officers (CDOs) has grown globally from just one to an estimated 950 in the third quarter of 2015 and appointments have been accelerating in the last three years.
Research by Experian Data Quality into businesses with a CDO or a senior data leader, “Rise of the data force”, showed that organisations were already reaping the rewards of having a data champion. They cited tangible changes to the data culture within their organisations and changes in perception to the extent that they no longer needed to evangelise or communicate data. They found that people already realised its value and there was growing demand from the business for information to inform decisions.
Almost four-fifths (79%) of the businesses surveyed believe the responsibility for data quality should ultimately lie within the business, with occasional help from IT. However, many organisations implement systems that are too technical for the people who need to use them. This is often driven by a procurement exercise trying to meet every capability, rather than the practical reality of what capability will be used and by whom.
This is where the leadership of the CDO is essential. When a system is easy to adopt and intuitive to use, perceptions start to change, people start to look at data differently - not as something difficult, but as an enabler, a source of added intelligence that they can use to inform their business decisions. Data that is accessible and has easy to follow processes can help change an organisations’ culture to one in which people use data proactively to create new business opportunities.
Accessible systems can also help meet one of the big challenges cited by organisations in this research - the ability to meet expectations of how fast the data should be able to deliver results for the business. We found that 94% state they have experienced internal challenges in improving their data quality and, specifically, 27% cite time-to-value expectations as one of the biggest challenges.
Business strategy is increasingly being driven by the need to respond to customers in real time. As this trend accelerates, there’s an increased demand for data to respond to requests for information within the business.
Data management technology can help track and identify where errors are coming from. IT should then be able to monitor customer data as it is being collected, cross-check it with reference data and give a prompt such as to a call centre operative or a customer signing up online, to question or change the information. By having the right technology in place, it addresses the issue and transforms an organisations’ data strategy.
By reviewing a data management strategy so that it works for the whole business and fixes problems at source, organisations are able to optimise their data and improve their customer experience. By putting key structures in place that manage transformation, drive decisions, embed a data-driven culture and implement appropriate technology, businesses can deliver time-to-value expectations and generate new business opportunities.