Do I know if the information I give to my Board or Exec is correct?

Having run businesses for over 30 years, if you were to ask me what were the most stressful moments, many of them were when I was sitting around a Boardroom table trying to get agreement to an important point based on some information that others were questioning and indeed that I wasn’t complete confident in myself. Not only stressful but my reputation was on the line.

Just ask most social housing Data Analyst and they will tell you that one of their great frustrations is that far too often they have to spend 50% of their time collating the data, before they can do any analysis or reporting. Such data collation sometimes incorporates the need for manual collation, often called Data Wrangling or Data Munging.

This data is only as good as the information available and even then, it can be subject to human error. To provide a brief example, we have one customer who used a business critical spreadsheet to drive certain aspects of reporting. We found that they had 64 different copies of the spreadsheet on their system, 5 different versions of which were being used as the master.

Another issue that is all too common is the ‘human factor’ and the desire for the output to provide the answer someone wants or needs or feels that those they provide the information to will want to see.

My question to you is How confident are you in the integrity of the information you present, particularly when, to a greater or lesser degree, your reputation rests upon?

Data is your BIG risk

Concerns over data integrity is the reason that the Regulator’s Sector Risk Profile 2022 now has a whole section dedicated to it, with clause 3.27 specifically stating that “Boards must have assurance that data is appropriately managed, ensuring confidentiality, integrity, and availability. This will require adequate quality controls and robust audit trails are in place, identifying critical data and Information Asset Owners, establishing process maps, and implementing appropriate software solutions such as error detection.”

So what can these ‘appropriate software solutions’ do and why is the Regulator stating they ARE now essential? It is simply because they can provide the assurance around all of the above:

  • They can apply quality and integrity rules to all data and alert you if the data is incomplete or doesn’t comply, allowing the problem to be addressed
  • They can provide a robust data audit trail
  • They can check that information in various desperate systems agree (e.g. housing management systems, asset management systems, mobile data solutions, etc.) and therefore provides a ‘single version of the truth’
  • Some can even check and correlate information that sits outside the established data sources, for example in spreadsheets, Microsoft Teams, emails and shared drives
  • Importantly, they also overcome concerns around human error and motivation

If you are not using such software, it is likely it is just a matter of time until you do. Can I suggest that if you have any doubts, you carry out a brief proof of concept and trial both if you have data integrity issues and if such software will help you to overcome such issues once and for all in the future.

Times are changing. We use to think ‘IT’ was all about the ‘T’, the technology, but we are quickly coming to realise that it was the ‘I’ that was far more important. It’s accurate information that boards, executives, staff and customers need. The technology is essential, but purely an enabler to get the information. The technology we now need is that which will ensure the integrity of the ‘I’. Technology that never sleeps; can find information wherever it may be in the organisation; should not make mistakes; and provides both you and bodies like the Regulator with the information they need – Better data to power decision making