If data is the new gold, why aren’t companies able to refine it?

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Clive Bellmore, CEO EUAF at BackOffice Associates

It may be a cliché, but data is now the most valuable asset in the new digital economy. It is a precious resource that has the ability to impact business outcomes across every sector, but perhaps most profoundly in the finance sector.

It has been a significant year of regulatory change, with organisations now having to address major regulations, such as GDPR and MiFID II, as well as the uncertainty around future arrangements between the UK and the EU. So, it should be a number one priority to have your data in order and at the best quality that it possibly can be. Not only this, it forms the basis of all reporting regulations and inaccurate, inconsistent and incomplete data can leave not just CFOs and CDOs at risk, but entire businesses too.

What needs to be adopted is a data-first mindset and it needs to be embedded in the culture of an entire organisation. Ensuring that your data is in the best possible shape will mean it will adhere to regulatory requirements and will retain its commercial value.

It may seem daunting but there are a few steps that can be taken to change mindsets on the resource that your organisation is built upon:

Firstly, education should be the foundation of this change in approach to data. This will more than likely be the responsibility of the CDO or CFO but all members of staff are using data on a daily basis. Poor quality data can have serious ramifications to the business, costing it time and money, as well as leaving employees frustrated. It should be a collaborative effort across all teams to communicate this across all levels, from intern to CEO.

This could also lead to running regular data quality checks. For example, ensuring that all mandatory fields are filled with data that is clear and makes sense, like making sure that letters and numbers are where they should be and not mixed up. It is a simple thing, but one human error can take up time and effort to rectify. As well as this, having accurate and competitive real-time data to hand can give you the edge over competitors.

Next, to establish this change,appoint a ‘data advocate’ within each team who will help reinforce the need for every staff member to take care over the data they are handling. This should be someone who is able to influence the cultural change of the team and have a clear oversight of current working processes. There is nothing wrong with handing this responsibility to someone more junior; however, it should remain with the CDO – or equivalent – to oversee the wider cultural shift across the entire business.

This could also help with buy-in for the board and help release budgets to implement and maintain ongoing data governance procedures and best practices. It is imperative that for these procedures to work, realistic timeframes are put in place for their implementation, testing and reviewing. Another consideration here should be plans for the likelihood that there may be team members who are pulled away from their data duties when other demands from the business occur. This will also show how much importance is being placed on data by the business.

Once you have got the quality of your data in check and advocates on board, the next stage is keeping that data in its best condition. As we all know, new habits are hard to form and people are inclined to go back to their old ways. Luckily, there are many technology platforms that can help with the heavy lifting.

If you are implementing regular audits into your new data-first mindset, a data management service can identify specific issues with your data that could be hindering your operational productivity, by delivering fact-based findings. A thorough analysis can include information such as data relevancy and readiness through to gap analysis. Having these insights at their fingertips, your staff will be able to remediate issues quickly and efficiently.

Data management services are also highly adaptable and are able to be customised to suit the specific needs of any organisation. They can provide accurate and visible real-time data into where specific industry objectives can be improved as well as laying down the blueprints for ongoing passive data governance, minimising the need for manual intervention from staff, taking the burden off of already stretched teams.

Once it is embedded in the heart of a company culture, a data-first mindset can be a tool that can be used reaching valuable revenue opportunities and also keep the regulatory bodies at bay. Developing and maintaining this, while essential, shouldn’t be an impossible task. Once you have a structured education policy in place, advocates that are championing governance strategies and best practices and the technology that best fits your business implemented, your data will be worth it’s weight in gold for a long time to come.