Friday, 12 April 2013

New incentives for data quality

Few would argue that the current international banking crisis is the biggest example of corporations working in an unsustainable manner. Barclays Bank's Salz review placed the blame squarely with their culture of short-term gain. 

But a careful appraisal of nearly every sector of our society will find organisations locked into sort term, mechanistic behaviour patterns, with over-emphasis on attracting new business, and not caring about the customers and services that they already have. What is more fundamental is that millions of ordinary workers across the globe are currently incentivised and paid based on these values. 

But what has not been clear, is how such cultures should be replaced, and how we are to keep our workforces correctly motivated. A clue can be found in recent legislation aimed at banking (Basel 3, Solvency 2). 

More emphasis has to be made on getting things right.... first time.... every time.

How do we do that? We measure the quality of the data that our businesses manufacture, and we reward ourselves based on how well we are doing. Data quality is easily measurable, and the results are unambiguous and far clearer than a customer satisfaction survey or industry awards. 

Saturday, 6 April 2013

5 signs that you are running a clumsy business

In these challenging times, agility is key to every organisation's survival. A business that cannot change will be swiftly overtaken by it's competitors.  How do you know your agility is a problem? Here are some major warning signs:

1.  Disparate departments cannot agree over basic facts
If your sales teams and your treasurers cannot agree on how many sales you did last month, you have a serious problem. It is acceptable for areas to have different measures, as long as the differences are understood and that everyone accepts them. If you cannot reconcile, you are well on the road to decision paralysis.

2.  Process becomes more important than competence and training
When times become hard it is easy for businesses to cut their expenditure on training and focus on process engineering. Locking customers and services into engineered, mechanistic processes is easy to organise. But when a customer's requirements falls outside that process, or agility is required to make changes, it is the training and skill of your staff that will pull you through and delight your customers. 

3.  No-one owns the data
In medium to large organisations, it is rare for the manufacturers of information to also be the consumers of it. Without data governance to assign a responsible and accountable owner, there is little desire within the organisation to spend time, effort and money on fixing incorrect data.

4.  There is a gap in knowledge between your technical and business areas
Your technical areas know how things work and keep the computer processes running without error; your business areas focus on the processes and the customer. But the content and structure of tables and databases is not understood and very few people know how to use the data or whether it is right or wrong.

5.  The impact of change on data is not understood
If someone wants to add a new product, service or feature to your organisation, they do not know that a change in their area means that changes need to happen in other areas. Typically, technical systems may need rows adding to reference tables so that the data appears correctly in management information and other services. New changes may be fine in one system, but may damage referential integrity with other related systems.

This list is not exhaustive. But they are the main agility risks that good data management can provide. Do you know any more? Leave your comments below.