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Quality data is the bedrock to true business intelligence

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(Image credit: Flatfile)

As with everything nowadays, the Business Intelligence (BI) industry is expanding and evolving at a rapid pace - by 2022, Reuters expects the global revenue of BI to be worth $29.48 billion. The rising volume of data available to businesses means that they are constantly evaluating their collection and understanding process of data to serve customers or target markets better. Business Intelligence is constantly allowing companies to evolve, pivot, and formulate new ways to service their customers better, and perform in a more streamlined and simple capacity.

However, BI is still seen in some areas as a ‘nice to have’ as opposed to operationally necessary. This can be down to many businesses not knowing how to use Business Intelligence effectively. Ultimately, a misunderstanding into how to use BI, and the role that quality data has to play in the implementation, could be holding businesses back from realizing their full potential.

BI is about using all of the data and information available to help make the optimum decision at the time, then to have the tools to monitor and manage the decisions' effects, then manage accordingly. However, whilst it’s important to have an understanding of what BI actually is, the key insight you really need is to be able to shift that understanding to action, and having the ability to utilize Business Intelligence to really make a difference.

What is Business Intelligence, and why is quality important?

In a nutshell, business intelligence is the process of taking raw data and forming it into valuable business insights and information. Essentially, it acts as an aid for making most business decisions. Business Intelligence tools can offer insight and detail about the state of a business. They can then aid a leader through decision-making processes, delivering the insight and transparency to make informed decisions. 

So what happens when your data is inaccurate? The common assumption is that you end up making poor and ill-informed decisions that could have catastrophic consequences for your business. However, the crux of the matter is that the worst decision you can make is not making a decision at all - regardless of whether it’s the wrong or right one. Even a decision that is wrong, or made utilizing weak data, takes time to see the results. A lack of any kind of decision realistically shows a lack of leadership.

Your choices can affect the direction that a company takes across the long term, and you can ultimately direct your entire business in the light of bad data, leading to bad decisions. A Deloitte survey found that companies with CEOs that spearhead data-driven decisions are 77 percent more likely to achieve business goals. They are also 59 percent more likely to derive actionable insights from analytics results.

Businesses rely more heavily on data in 2021 

Nowadays, decisions are being scrutinized more and more, and those scrutinizing those decisions are asking for data and proof points on why they were taken. This is where data comes in. Data gives business leaders the proof points, validation, and confidence to make bold decisions to take their business to the next level.

The Covid-19 pandemic has led to businesses scrambling to be at the top of the recovery pile, showing that they can recover the quickest and return to pre-pandemic levels the best. This desire to make quick decisions in an ever-changing landscape ultimately leads to business leaders needing the best intelligence and data to make quick decisions based on accurate information. 

Unexpectedly for many, the ‘black swan' event that was Covid-19 has been a key inflection point for many industries, lifting businesses beyond where they felt they could ever be, even in decades.  However, to deal with this explosive and quickfire boom, businesses have had to pivot quickly, making bigger and more wide-scale decisions. To back this boom, they have had to have the data to make quick decisions, and the data management systems to deal effectively with this increased data, keeping it orderly and healthy.

What is the future of data management and business intelligence? 

The first consideration in the future of business intelligence is that it’s an up-and-coming business tool, but it isn’t being understood or utilized by enough businesses. In 2020, the global BI adoption rate was 26 percent. However, the same survey found that BI is something that companies are bearing in mind for the immediate future, with 54 percent of enterprises saying Cloud BI is either critical or very important to their ongoing and future initiatives. 

Understandably, the physical future of data management lies within making the data we use more accurately, eradicating errors, and, in turn, reducing the business decisions taken off the back of weak and harmful data. 

One viewpoint that is gathering momentum surrounding data management is that the future of data quality lies within a shifting mindset. Many business leaders recognize that their data is ‘unhealthy’ and inaccurate, but few are happy to do anything about it. Businesses don’t always recognize the damage that harmful data has, and they don’t know how to make it healthy. There needs to be a greater understanding of how to utilize business intelligence and make it work for your business. When businesses have this understanding, they can start to get the most out of their data. 

Understanding the damage that bad data can have will inevitably lead to business leaders taking their data management and systems more seriously and, in doing so, learning more about how they can make data work for them.

How businesses can refine data quality to achieve a certain goal

Businesses can refine data quality by taking a full-scale, almost helicopter-like view of the data and intelligence systems that a company currently employs. Taking this overview look will help a company establish exactly where their data is lacking, where the gaps are emerging, and identify any rhythmic inaccuracies that are occurring regularly. 

Once your data is accurate, and you’re confident that it will withstand supporting the rigors of an intelligence process, businesses can then look to employ BI measures to begin making decisions based on quality data. Without this refined data quality, businesses cannot hope for BI or any other intelligence system to be effective, and could also be highly detrimental to business making decisions.

The mindset of data collection has changed dramatically. Previously, businesses thought that collecting as much data as possible would give them the best chance of making business decisions based on that, with a total disregard for the quality of the data in question.  

Quite rightly, there is a growing understanding of quality over quantity, utilizing the notion that lots of data isn’t necessarily good data. In the future, we’ll see even more businesses focusing on how good their data is, as opposed to how much data they actually have. They can then ensure their decisions are built fully on quality data, as opposed to the quantity of data.

Future-proofing with Business Intelligence 

Ultimately, business intelligence has the potential to future-proof your business against future black swan events. Pre-Covid, an event of this magnitude was almost unthinkable, and certainly wasn’t built into business contingency plans. Now that this has occurred, business leaders need to make sure they learn, and don’t make the mistake of not building in a contingency plan, or at the very least preventative measures. 

Business intelligence can help you to utilize the data at hand to make the best decisions, the best choices, and future-proof your business. Preparation for anything will aid you in your decision-making, and strengthen your business to withstand even the hardest of times.

Simon Rolph, CEO, Such Sweet Thunder

Simon Rolph is CEO and Founder of Such Sweet Thunder, a data management company intent on making your complex challenges as simple as possible. Such Sweet Thunder cuts through complex problems and creates simple solutions that their clients easily understand and see the value of.