The chief data officer can eliminate the £9M data-quality black hole

Fresh data is usually pristine; data in its clearest, most accurate form. Any business that has measures in place to cut back on data input errors can be reasonably sure that the newest records in their CRM are the latest and greatest.

If the CRM has been active for some time, the business will have a number of older records that have accrued. These records are the ones the sales and marketing teams will rely on when it’s time to approach existing customers and sell to them again.

Chances are, the quality of these records will be fairly good, but it will have fallen since they were first collected. As data quality slips, data goes from great to good to decidedly bad.

>See also: The age of the Chief Data Officer has well and truly arrived

Waste and cost

Data management is a huge cost to businesses, but it’s the bad data that is the real drain. According to Gartner, the average business wastes as much as $13.5 million (£9 million) sorting out data quality problems every year.

Poor management is rife. Because data is stored electronically, many businesses leave its management to the IT department. Yet there is no role within IT that is adept at managing data, and no role that traditionally takes ownership of it. People expect data to retain its accuracy when stored, yet the exact opposite is true. It ages, decays and loses all of its value.

Enter the chief data officer (CDO).

One job role cannot be a panacea for poor data management. And in itself, the role isn’t a data quality cure-all. But the CDO can take ownership of a potential pain point and make sure that the business’s most valuable asset is not allowed to depreciate over time.

What a CDO can do

The role of CDO is relatively new, yet it’s well overdue in tens of thousands of businesses that are harvesting more data about their customers, calling for investment in people who can nurture and manage that data.

The CDO is tasked with making order from chaos, and protecting the investment with the digital contents of some of the most important storage silos the company has.

As CRMs begin to age, the data within them is the telltale sign of trouble ahead. Once grea’ data is now simply good data. If left unchecked, this data will turn ‘bad’ pretty quickly.

Once in post, the CDO can migrate data management responsibilities to the business as a whole, taking it away from IT (or whichever function is currently responsible for it). This puts data quality at the core of the business’s operations, making it a central point of discussion when new business processes are developed. It should also result in data quality receiving adequate resources.

>See also: The role of the chief data officer – why it is a necessary one

CDOs can also keep track of data assets; where they’re stored, who’s got access and how often they are cleansed and checked. They can put data quality processes in place to better manage the purity of critical business data, and they can make sure the business is not paying to store duplicated, old, unverified or corrupted data.

The end result is a cleaner, clearer dataset for everyone in the business, and a more secure, timely and effective management of data for the customer or client.

What a CDO can’t do

It sounds as though the CDO will wave their magic wand and solve the business’s data quality problems, but one person cannot be solely responsible for managing data in any business.

There must be a broader strategic aim to treat data as an asset, care for it while it’s at rest, and use it responsibly when it’s needed. This is something the CDO can oversee, but with support and buy-in from the boardroom.

This isn’t a solo mission, and this is why the CDO is expected to take a senior role in the company, according to Gartner.

From medical records to loyalty cards, there are myriad rules around how personal data can be used and stored. It’s the CDO’s responsibility to oversee this. Yet other staff using the data will still be expected to understand compliance, and must handle data responsibly according to those regulations.

Moving forward with data

Businesses are capturing more and more data from an increasing range of sources. Customer data, such as names and addresses, represents the core of most CRM systems. As businesses become better at capturing data, they’re certainly going to acquire more of it, more quickly than ever before.

From the Internet of Things to increasingly sophisticated web analytics, businesses are going to need to be more selective about data, and store only the data that really matters to them. This increasing resource will need ongoing management to ensure it does not go from great to good to bad – or even useless.

>See also: A chief data officer gives the lowdown on all things analytics

And as data silos grow, they become more appealing to hackers who will try their best to gain access by stealth. Often, by the time a breach has been discovered, the data has been sold on multiple times, and the business is powerless to do anything about it.

This is the unfortunate end result of data being badly managed, or not managed at all.

By 2017, Gartner says that 25% of organisations will have a CDO. In industries where regulatory compliance is key, the figure is expected to be much higher – perhaps even 50%.

If a business collects data, stores it and uses it to determine strategy, a CDO could be the key person who will commit to high data quality across the business.


Sourced from Martin Doyle, CEO, DQ Global

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...