Business & Leadership Behaviors Technical & Industry Thoughts

The Dodgy Business of Data

Data is everywhere. Gone are the days when people looked things up in encyclopedias or lie awake at 3 am because they couldn’t remember who sang that song. Now it seems like whatever you want to know can be served up to you by a seemingly elegant woman named Siri who happens to live in your phone.

All of this now-available data isn’t necessarily accurate. We were probably a little more trusting of information sources before Al Gore invented the internet. Now, we roll our eyes at Aunt Edna or Uncle Charlie who is adamant about something crazy like Martians are plotting to take over Earth or organic food will kill you. They’re convinced that it’s true – because it said so on the internet.

And yes, I know that Al Gore didn’t invent the internet – because it says so on the internet.

Cost of Bad Data

All of us rely on data every day to make decisions. We check the weather to determine what to wear. We check traffic to determine the best route to work. We check the scale to determine if there’s any room for chocolate in the near future (maybe that’s just me). Even my dad, who was known for his “my gut says” analysis would check the Farmer’s Almanac.

But what if the data you’re looking at is wrong/incomplete/old? While the impact to you personally might not be big (you carry an umbrella & didn’t need it, you’re stuck in traffic, etc.) – the impact on your business could be huge. There could be big financial implications, missed opportunities, damage to your reputation, and more.

Just look at Wells Fargo. After it was discovered that account managers were opening unauthorized accounts, it cost them $185 million in fines, thousands of employees were fired, their reputation and shareholder value was damaged, and they are still paying back their customers.

Had the data been viewed earlier or differently would the outcome be different? Likely. But suffice it to say, if you don’t have the right data to base your decisions on – you could be in a world of trouble.


Use Drives Quality

I’ve been in the automated data capture business for more years than I like to admit. It doesn’t matter how things evolve –when it comes to data, everything comes back to Quality and Use.

While the focus of our solutions at HL Group is on the data capture side – how that data will be used is what defines and drives what we capture. We then hand off that information to other business systems (ERPs, Financials, etc.) for the Use side of the data.

A common reason we’re brought in is because of the Quality of a client’s existing data (or lack thereof). But determining the Quality of the data is enormously impacted by the Use of the data.

One of the first questions that we always ask is “How do you intend to use the data?” You’d be surprised (or maybe you wouldn’t) at how many teams can’t definitively answer this question. But it’s critical – if you want Quality data (now and in the future) – you need to have a clearly defined business case for the Use of the data.

Without a business case, you won’t be able to effectively define the data that you need or have that critical executive management support to keep behaviors surrounding data quality initiatives going. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen solutions that were driven by an IT department fail because they didn’t have a clear business case that had top-down executive support.

Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll look at how to achieve Quality data – and then how to put it to Use. In the meantime, I’d love to hear about data challenges that you’ve run into – or are even currently struggling with today.



Anne Hale is the Director of Client Services at HL Group, Inc., a premier mobile asset inventory management and warehouse solutions provider. She manages our client engagements, works with Wes on sales and marketing, and is unusually preoccupied with good data.