The importance of quality data
By Frank Rizzo, Data and Analytics Lead at KPMG
Data is an indispensable part of business today. In the connected world, the need to analyse data and adjust corporate strategies accordingly, has become fundamental to continued business success. However, is the speed to innovate and respond happening to the detriment of ensuring data quality?
Often, when discussing data, people refer to the three Vs – Volume, Variety, and Velocity. These are used to define what Big Data is all about. At KPMG, we look at two additional Vs – Value and Veracity – as ultimately, the effectiveness of Big Data depends on the value that the organisation is trying to unlock, as well as how ‘true’ the data is from an integrity and security perspective.
Despite the sheer volume of data at the disposal of decision-makers, it still does not necessarily provide them with the right context for their organisation(s). So today, companies are still grappling with how to understand what people are ‘saying’ about them and examining ways in which to correctly extract value from the mass of unstructured, available, data. This is where Veracity comes in – it examines how entities can identify the right data so that Value can be extracted thus bringing real benefit to the organisation.
Data quality management is centred on understanding the organisation’s data. The challenge many organisations face is how to maintain data quality, especially given the daily influx of new data. As a result, to my mind, the boardroom discussions should be more focused on the need for data quality management and analytics – rather than merely speaking to ‘Big Data’. The reality is, you can’t have one without the other.
South Africa has a culture of building massive data warehouses, but the quality and effectiveness of those need to be questioned. Consider how many companies embark on data cleansing strategies, which see them working through mountains of information. Often, these projects take time, are not very ‘sexy’ in terms of technology trends; these strategies are fundamentally necessary to help the organisation move forward.
As a result, a data analyst becomes very important for business. This person needs to understand the underlying data structures, where the data comes from and how it is made up. Unfortunately, this is not something that we are seeing a lot of in South Africa as yet. Therefore, it is vital to bring the quality of data in South African organisations up to a level where business can benefit more effectively from it. Expectations are that there will be a significantly bigger focus on these kinds of positions in the coming months.
On the up side, Africa has the benefit of not having massive numbers of legacy systems to contend with when compared to more developed regions. African organisations have not been hampered by old databases and are able to use newer techniques to benefit from a more real-time environment.
Given the nature of data and how quickly it moves, it will mean that business on the continent will need to be able to run newer systems in parallel with more traditional ones. Additionally, as the Internet of Things and the number of available data sources starts multiplying exponentially, there is even more reason to get the processes right before the organisation is flooded with data. The very nature of business going forward depends on this.