Set Your Data Free in Three Easy Steps

Over the past decade, the amount of data available within organizations has grown exponentially. When acted upon strategically, this data has great potential value. It contains a wealth of information that can improve the knowledge capital within an organization, improve operational efficiencies, and provide insight into new business possibilities.

To realize this value, the following three points around data usage should always be considered:

  1. Availability: Oftentimes, data is not available to the right employees. Organizations are losing the potential value of actionable and insightful information identified by these employees.
  2. Definitions: Clear business definitions of the data elements must be communicated and understood prior to data usage.
  3. Context: Employees should have the requisite contextual knowledge of how business process, in which the data is obtained or generated, functions. For example, if an employee is making decisions based on compliance data, the user should understand the business processes performed by compliance. In understanding context, any misinterpretations of the data are avoided, preventing inappropriate business decisions.

Consider the following example of a financial institution’s client referential system, where new features have been added and management wants to understand how these features are being used.

  • Availability: Previously, management queried the client referential application using the limited on-screen search functionality. With the recent implementation of a reporting tool, management is able to extract data directly from the application’s database and run more advanced queries on the data for analyses, such as examining data quality.
  • Definitions: The management team that designed the new features understands the functional definitions of the data elements. With this understanding, they expect certain types of values to populate fields. In their analysis, they identified that some regulatory-related fields do not have the expected values for clients in a particular region. The information from these fields is submitted for regulatory reporting, and submitting inaccurate information creates a great deal of risk for the organization.
  • Context: The management team has the contextual knowledge on how the client onboarding team functions. Onboarding provides documentation and detailed instructions for each region about how to populate fields. While attempting to understand how a data discrepancy occurred, the team reviewed the documentation provided to each region and discovered that one was provided with the incorrect documentation.

Making data available to the right employees and providing the appropriate business definitions of the data elements gives employees who possess contextual knowledge the ability to identify process gaps and identify solutions that will remediate these gaps, which improves an organization’s ROI on data.

A wealth of information is buried inside an organization’s data. This creates an opportunity to add value. Do the right employees have access to your data?

Contributed by Phil Liu.