Overcoming obstacles to become data-driven

February 18, 2020 by Michael Kilander

To quote The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, ‘water, water everywhere, / nor any drop to drink.’ I think the same can be true of data. While organizations have more data than ever before, very few are able to capitalize on this resource and actually leverage it for insight.

There is no question on the value of data. It is viewed as a key competitive advantage, and in some instances, a strategic financial asset. However, translating data into meaningful insight is a completely different task to storing and managing it from a regulatory perspective. We see many companies investing in all sorts of data initiatives, like analytics, machine learning automation, data governance, customer insight, etc. Yet, most companies still report they are not sufficiently data driven.

Each year we conduct a global study of data usage and data management practices. This year, we surveyed over 1,000 practitioners on how they want to leverage data. The research dug into some of the obstacles they face and why so few are able to leverage data for insight. We found three key areas emerge.

First, there is a large degree of distrust in information. The average professional looking at data does not understand how that data got there, when it is useful, and what state it is in. While data can lead to increased agility and better decision making, a significant level of distrust often causes leaders to fall back on making decisions by gut instinct rather than by informed data insight. In fact, we have consistently seen over the past several years that people believe almost a third of their data is inaccurate.

Second, we are seeing a rising level of data debt. Data debt is a lot like technical debt. You have a set of data assets that aren’t necessarily fit for purpose or have a high degree of inaccuracy. Unless you take the time to fix that information and govern it properly, you are always going to have a suboptimal data operation. In turn, poor quality means many companies are not fully seeing the ROI or expected benefit from some of the investments they are making.

Finally, there is a data skills shortage. This doesn’t just mean data professionals, like data analysts, chief data officers (CDOs), and data scientists. There is also a general lack of understanding around data within the broader business. We see a growing number of companies talking about enabling wider usage of data across the business and wanting to do more with data insight, but very few people across organizations are truly data literate. Our survey results indicated a tide changing where now most companies report that data literacy needs to be a core competency of employees over the next five years.

To generate the level of insight needed to fully leverage data as a valuable asset, organizations have to start to tackle issues around inaccuracy, trust, and certainly data skills. Without fixing these components, organizations will continue to be surrounded by all of this useful data that doesn’t actually provide them with what they need.

To learn more about these challenges and our new study, please download the report at https://www.edq.com/resources/data-management-whitepapers/2020-Global-data-management-research/.

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