Driving value from data – survey results

Perceptions on the value of business data have changed immeasurably over the last decade. But according to the latest survey of Information Age readers, there is still a long way to go before data is universally viewed as a trusted asset that can be exploited to optimise business processes or maximise opportunities.

The research, conducted in partnership with data quality and integration software company DataFlux and business advisory firm Deloitte, shows attitudes to data quality and best practice in data management are at least moving in the right direction.

Almost half the sample reported that their organisations “give a high strategic priority to data quality” and not one of the 210 respondents reported that their organisation undertook “no formal data quality efforts”. However, that means a quarter do not give data quality a high priority and another quarter prioritise it for select areas and processes.

Given that mixed support for data quality initiatives, their users struggle to trust the underlying data they can access. Only in 42% of cases do users view the data as a valuable, trusted business asset. About the same amount argue that not enough is being done to ensure it is exploited, with 41% saying that “there is a recognition that data could offer more value to users”.

A worrying one in ten observe that their organisation’s data “is not wholly trusted because of quality and inconsistency issues” and a further 6% are dismissive, saying data is “perceived to be of little value”.

Quality drivers

Behind the push towards better, trusted data is a mix of drivers. The survey, which was conducted in April, shows cost reduction with a relatively low priority when respondents were considering the most important drivers for data quality management initiatives: 10% said it was the most important driver.

However, one of the two top drivers was directly related to cost-cutting. Operational efficiency was identified by a fifth of respondents, while the largest number (27%) singled out regulatory compliance as the single most important factor behind data quality/management initiatives.

Again, there were some surprises: the importance of data initiatives to improve marketing (whether customers, communications or some other initiative) was ranked low. Almost 40% of respondents said that such initiatives are no longer common triggers for data projects – perhaps a sign that CRM and other data initiatives have taken a back seat in recessionary times as operational efficiency and analysis to improve decision-making have grown in importance.

While just over a third of respondents said that the practice is pervasive throughout their organisation, 58% declared that efforts to identify business value are sporadic and ad hoc.

A frustrated group, 8%, complained that there were no structures to speak of for identifying areas of business value within their organisation.

Clearing hurdles

So what is inhibiting efforts to improve organisations’ data governance? Not surprisingly, a lack of funding for such initiatives comes top, stated by over half the group. The other dominant barrier lay in the fact that few people are willing to don the data governance mantle. At 40% of the sample, there was a clear impression that “no one owns the overall problem”.

That was exacerbated by a lack of management buy-in for projects (28%) and a poor understanding of the issues and value by management (22%). But from the other side, the inability of IT and project sponsors to mount a convincing enough business case (26%) was also a serious barrier.

The good news is that the majority of organisations are aiming to create a foundation that will drive better value from their data. Not only did 19% say that they had already created a “single version of the truth”, where data is viewed as consistent and trusted across different databases and lines of business, 41% said they were working towards achieving that and a further 22% have plans to do so.

As that suggests, there is an awareness of how to get more value out of the morass of data available to businesses, and a willingness to do so – all that is needed is for several of the key barriers to fall.

David Cliff

David Cliff is managing director of Houghton le Spring-based Gedanken, a company specialising in coaching-based support and personal development. Cliff is an experienced trainer, manager and therapist,...

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