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Managing the perception gap – achieving data integrity though cultural transformation

(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/Wright Studio)

In today’s digital economy, data is the new oil.

With uncertainty omnipresent, businesses of all sizes must have a holistic view of existing operations and processes to remain competitive. Data – and the insights it derives – is key to this. By using data effectively, business leaders can make accurate and timely decisions that positively impact the organisation – be it cost or efficiency savings, improved customer experience, product optimisation, or even crisis prevention.

However, a common misconception is that using data effectively relies on the introduction of data governance and the adoption of new technologies like machine learning (ML). What is often forgotten is data quality. The truth is, a key building block to digital success, is the ability to deliver trusted data at speed.

Data integrity – the current state of play

Data governance is a set of processes that allows all data – both created within and outside of an organisation – to be formally managed. Data governance should provide peace of mind around data integrity. However, a recent Talend survey highlighted a significant perception gap between senior IT leaders and operational data workers.

In the UK, while 45 per cent of senior IT leaders surveyed felt confident that the organisation’s data assets were accurate, complete and up to date, only 19 per cent of operational data workers felt the same. Worse still, a mere 6 per cent of operational data workers were confident that their companies had the appropriate tools and systems needed to efficiently monitor and manage data assets. 47 per cent of senior IT leaders felt the same way. 

To succeed, businesses must learn to make data quality a core element of their digital transformation. Only then can the organisation move beyond data integration to achieve the level of data integrity needed in today’s digital economy.

However, success does not come from simply implementing the ‘right’ tools. Instead, businesses must empower people to drive real cultural change internally, ensuring all employees are aligned and trained appropriately. They must embark on a data governance transformation.

Understanding your starting point and progressing

Only once an accurate data picture is painted, can businesses truly identify the gaps in data management that lead to depleted data quality and thus progress with a solution.

'Bad’ data can come from every department within an organisation – sales, marketing, engineering – and can manifest itself in several problematic ways. This includes inaccurate analysis and thus insights, a reduction in cost-effective decision making, or even security issues. To stop this from happening, businesses must first know who within the organisation has access to data and at what touchpoint.

Aligning with HR and talent departments

Once business leaders understand who has access to data, they must then outline their intentions and the business needs with the departments responsible for people and development. This will help to ensure data integrity is at the heart of the training and development of employees. While some businesses have rolled out new mandatory training programmes focused on preserving data quality, others have looked to third party providers to bring a greater number of data training courses into the business.

Deploying blended learning programs

When rolling out new training programmes focused on data integrity, a blended learning approach is often considered most successful. Blended training programmes provide employees with a combination of online and offline learning experiences. Blended learning is proven to improve data literacy – providing a basic understanding of how data is used within the business – as it permits workers to gather in physical and virtual training rooms to share their learnings and experiences. This can result in workers being trained to a higher standard and data quality is improved across the business.

Apply the 70-20-10 model

Engagement is key if businesses want to succeed in improving data integrity through new training programmes. To achieve the highest level of engagement in the data literacy training programme, business businesses should employ the 70-20-10 model.

The model breaks down learning into three distinct proportional aspects that leverage social interactions: onsite experience, shared discussions, and online/offline training programs - corresponding to the below proportional breakdown of effective learning:

  • 70 per cent from challenging assignments
  • 20 per cent from developmental relationships
  • 10 per cent from coursework and training

The different proportions correlate to how workers gain their knowledge. It suggests hands-on experience through challenging assignments is the most beneficial way to learn and develop skills. When this is combined with an aspect of social learning as well as coursework a highly engaging well-rounded training programme is created. 

Engage your data champions

While rolling out new data training programmes is the most important step in achieving data integrity, there are additional supportive measures that must also be taken.

In recent years, data roles have radically evolved. While some of the individuals that work closely with data will be obvious – like data scientists and data engineers – others will come as a surprise. By ensuring that all workers accessing data regularly are known, business leaders can begin to identify and appoint a small group of data champions – those responsible for driving data integrity change throughout the organisation. To effectively use the data champions within the business, they must feel central to the new data training programme – either as creators, promoters or ambassadors. To do this, data champions should be tasked with providing the local expertise needed to pick and choose the right content for employees, or to tailor specific data literacy contents to the organisations’ constraints and values. This will allow business leaders to get the maximum benefit from the training programme, while also providing in-house support to other employees.

Align with your data integrity and governance ambitions 

Critically, any new data training programme implemented must align with the data integrity and governance ambitions of the business. If these two aspects are not aligned, it will mean workers are not trained to appropriately manage, utilise, or protect data in the way the business needs. Training will then, only, prove to provide a false sense of security to business leaders. Data integrity, however, will remain below that standard needed to win in a digital world.

We have entered an era where data is everywhere, produced by (almost) anything and available to anyone. In an environment where data is the new oil, it needs to be trustworthy and delivered at speed. Yet, true data integrity is not achieved solely through deploying technology or creating new processes, it is cultural. If workers are not properly trained as well as fully equipped to properly manage data, businesses won’t have access to quality data and thus achieve digital success.

David Talaga, Senior Product Manager, Talend