Data continues to grow at explosive rates, making the issue of data quality increasingly important for business vitality. As companies look at their data governance practices, they must be sure to ask themselves a key question: Is a data-driven culture driving operational processes to continually produce quality data?

As Albert Einstein said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” Incorporating data quality techniques that can scale to meet growing data demands requires a different approach: one that is built on a philosophy of end-to-end standardized data controls consisting of business rules-based automation and real time visibility. A commitment to data quality changes the way in which we solve a number of issues surrounding data.

To be successful, an organization must be able to measure data quality at an enterprise level as a key component of data governance. This often isn’t the case from my experience. I often see KPIs (key performance indicators) on data quality that are done in silos throughout the organization, which results in organizational chaos when  answering a simple question like, “What is the health/accuracy of the data across a business process?” I often get answers such as, “there are a number of discrete KPI measurements for specific systems,” but seldom do I hear that there is management oversight and actionable dashboards with metrics on the data quality of the business process in its entirety.

While technology is the enabler for process change, data governance can be the vehicle to corral the organization around a new way to improve data quality. I’ve seen many initiatives falter because culture eats technology strategy for breakfast if everyone expects technology to be the primary driver for change. This is why data governance is a pivotal element for culture change to tie together people, process and technology.

As an executive, I often hear of many great technology ideas for change, and often have to facilitate the conversation up a notch so that the person pitching me sees the bigger picture. People and process are equally as important as the technology.

In the case of data, if people don’t trust the data, the company culture will be to question the validity and credibility of each report or recommendation based upon what they perceive as low quality data.

Instituting a culture of data quality isn’t just IT’s job. From a technology standpoint, sure, but the best performing data quality-driven organizations utilize cross-functional ownership with data stewards, data councils and executive sponsorship. This approach ensures that people and processes are aligned to the technology enabler to minimize risk, maximize opportunity and, above all, drive innovation using quality data.

Meeting Big Data Demands with Data Quality and Data Analytics Technology

Leading companies realize the need to establish a proper data management foundation across their entire infrastructure, integrated to support all areas of the business to make information exchange seamless and to give data at each checkpoint the gold star of assurance. For data to be useful as it goes deeper into the system, it must be accurate. Once pooled, it will be leveraged to make important decisions from customer outreach to financial forecasting – all things that influence customer perception, brand reputation and ultimately, the bottom line.

And there’s a catch: Big data complicates any company’s pursuit of data quality as more information pours into each department and more resources are made available to capture important input in real time. What might have been easily managed manually in the past can now be overwhelming – and highly error-prone – if done haphazardly or using outdated practices.

With companies aspiring to utilize advanced analytics with big data to uncover previously unknown insights that can lead to breakthrough business results, it’s important that the analytics are based upon quality and trustworthy data. A data governance culture is the foundation that strategically addresses people, processes, and technology to create a winning formula for data management success.

Technology Advances a Culture That Supports Big Data

Big data, despite all of its potential, is also very difficult to manage – and it’s even more difficult to manage the people who oversee or interact with the data itself.

Because big data proliferates across the modern enterprise, data exchanges hands more than any one person can keep track of, and more and more businesspeople are required to be data savvy. This poses a problem for management in terms of accountability, talent acquisition and training.

Much like any other desired behavior in the workforce, fostering a culture that acknowledges the importance of big data will encourage its continued application to data-backed decision-making. This, in turn, will help influence adjustments in strategy, while driving product and process innovation. It is important to reinforce this as a habit for employees to champion, and that takes time, motivation and governance.

And cultural change, when driven top-down, can stem from organizational change: Nearly 87% of executives cited organizational issues as the most critical factor in successful adoption and data success, according to NewVantage Partners’ 2014 Big Data Executives Survey. Infrastructure changes and the creation of new roles can help manifest the benefits of big data, further solidifying the path big data takes toward success.

Cultural change and technology adoption must work harmoniously for successful data management: an emphasis on one over the other will have limited impact overall. While the chicken-or-the-egg debate may take place in leadership circles – what comes first, technology adoption or cultural change? – it’s important to consider how the right technology advances the efforts of cultural change, helping facilitate and improve the data management processes that help employees own the outcomes of better data across the board. If culture and technology can be simultaneously emphasized and recognized for their significance in making big data more than a buzzword to companies today, companies will be much better off.

Sumit Nijhawan is president and CEO at Infogix.

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