In my February column, I talked about the importance of the role of the chief data officer (CDO) vis-à-vis managing the enormous volume of data that inundates most companies on a daily basis. One critical responsibility of the CDO is to leverage the value of data as a corporate asset. To do that, it’s essential to “get to know” the data.

The data locked in your corporate systems has a story to tell. Often, it’s a sad story of neglect and misuse that could be costing your company millions of dollars. Sometimes, though, data has secrets to tell - secrets that could make you millions.

The first thing that your corporate data might say is, “I’m lonely.” Lonely data sits idly in information systems. Data takes up space. So, if it’s not useful or critical to keep, data should be purged or backed up. More importantly, though, many companies have valuable data hiding in corporate systems that needs to be found and utilized.

The key to finding valuable data and purging the flotsam is to conduct annual corporate data surveys. A data survey can enable you to find lost or latent data and use it for the valuable corporate asset it is. But just finding all that data isn’t enough, which leads me to the next thing your data might be trying to tell you.

Some of your corporate data might be trying to say that it’s confused - i.e., that it’s not good quality data. Most companies’ systems are filled with poor quality data. Poor quality data could cost your company millions in lost revenue because garbage in equals garbage out. When users query information systems looking for answers they need to do their jobs or information to use in forecasting and analysis, bad information provides bad answers. Bad answers lead to bad decisions. Bad decisions lead to lost revenue.

Again, this is where the CDO has a role to play. Checking for data quality should be an integral part of annual data surveys. Moreover, data quality should be instilled from the top down as a corporate cultural value. Only when a company has confidence in the quality of its data can it have real confidence in the quality of its decisions.

The next thing that your data might be trying to tell you is that it’s buckling under the pressure of mounting quantities. Fifteen years ago, companies had megabytes of data in their corporate databases; that volume grew to gigabytes, then to terabytes. In the not-so-distant future, companies will need petabytes and exabytes of storage. That’s 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 bytes worth of storage capacity. Mind-boggling, isn’t it?

Many companies don’t have data storage and retrieval mechanisms and processes in place to optimize the storage and dissemination of these massive volumes of data. The result is that systems are underperforming and, in some cases, crumpling under the weight of data.

Here, the role of the CDO is to develop and implement a program to reorganize the data for efficient storage and effective use. There are myriad data storage and retrieval methodologies - no single one is right for every company. The trick is to find the one that’s right for your company, execute it and organize your corporate data so that it doesn’t cripple your information systems. Once you do, it might reveal the last two things your data might be trying to tell you.

These last two nuggets of information that your data might be trying to impart are related. The first is, “I have secrets to tell you.” The second, once those secrets are revealed, is, “I could make and/or save you millions of dollars.” Once you’ve weeded out useless data, gotten a handle on data quality and optimized your storage and retrieval processes, your data might reveal surprises that could save or make you money.

The role of the CDO here is to be a data champion. Data can be one of your most valuable corporate assets, but only if it’s used effectively. The CDO can help make sure that data is treated as the corporate asset it is. Like data quality, data value is a cultural phenomenon. Companies that value their data implement new information systems - or upgrade their existing systems - to enable them to use data in the most effective way possible.

The right combination of data mining applications, data warehouses and business intelligence toolsets can enable users to ask more complex questions and get higher quality answers from information systems. The right information in the hands of the right people can reveal new information that can lead to higher revenues and fatter profit margins.

Data doesn’t have to be silent anymore. A CDO with a knack for listening to corporate data can work wonders in getting the most value out of that data. If you know what to listen for, and you have a plan to address what you hear, you’ll be amazed at how much your corporate data can tell you - and how valuable that information can be.

This publication contains general information only and Deloitte Consulting LLP is not, by means of this publication, rendering business, financial, investment or other professional advice or services. This publication is not a substitute for such professional advice or services, nor should it be used as a basis for any decision or action that may affect your business. Before making any decision or taking any action that may affect your business, you should consult a qualified professional adviser. Deloitte Consulting LLP, its affiliates, and related entities shall not be responsible for any loss sustained by any person who relies on this publication.

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