When it comes to their data, a culture of openness and transparency will help companies prosper, says Charles Newhouse
Digital transformations are ubiquitous and growing. The 2019 Source report on the state of the UK consulting industry found that whilst the overall industry grew at 5.8 per cent in the previous year, revenues associated with digital transformation surged by 30 per cent and continue to show strong growth. Furthermore, customers ranked digital transformation as the area with the highest level of future investment.
This should come as little surprise. With digital advances ricocheting in all directions, it would be more of a shock if market activity wasn’t spiking as a consequence. Dig a little deeper, though, and you’ll soon find some anomalies.
Almost every digital transformation project will contain a strand which looks at improving the overall data of the organisation, be it quality ownership or where data should be mastered. At the same time, all organisations will surely be familiar with the principle of garbage in, garbage out. That’s because high data quality is fundamental to good decision-making.
However, it is perplexing how so many organisations miss a critical part of the data problem completely, that of access.
Having high quality data is only valuable to an organisation if it is able to provide access to that data to those that can derive value from it. As my colleague Holly Armitage has pointed out, all too often organisations silo data, intentionally or otherwise, and end up constructing walls around it. This, in turn, means that people within organisations will often end up making decisions based on incomplete information or indeed seek to create parallel sets of shadow data to inform decision-making.
When looking at companies that are able to derive the most value from their data, almost all of them share a common trait. Rather than asking “why?” when deciding whether to make data accessible to staff, they start by asking “why not?”
No time to be risk averse
When they come up with the reason for why data can’t be shared, that explanation is rigorously challenged and often they will look to see how they might be able to share a subset or with additional controls in place. Needless to say, having an appropriate set of controls in place is essential, but what most of these organisations find is that an awful lot of their data they hold can be made available internally.
With new companies emerging from Silicon Valley fuelled by data and who thrive on focusing staff to find new ways of generating value from the data they hold, their approach is an interesting contrast to how traditional business manages and silos its data.
This all raises the interesting question, is your company a “why?” or “why not?” organisation? If, like many you are the former, is this really sustainable in a world where data lies at the core of disruptive business models and decision-making?
The answer, I suspect, is that it’s not.
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About the author
Charles Newhouse is Global Consulting Director at BAE Systems Applied Intelligence