Lawson talks tech: Good data stewardship is now crucial as business activities go digital

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Data, they say, is the backbone of every organisation; in it rests your secrecy, procedures and the essential relationships with your partners and clients.

There is no apology needed in saying that your company is bound to fail in this electronic business age if you don’t have any strict data policy in place. You must consider data as one of your most valuable assets and loss of it can result in revenue loss.

Most organisations have relegated data quality issues to IT – which in some small and medium enterprises is a young graduate who is helping with desk support.

If data is indeed the backbone of every organisation, and you don’t have a policy in place for it, then on which pillar is your organisation leaning?

Truth be told, today’s business thrives on information that is available and accurate. Business can no longer be done well if there is no collaboration between the various departments within an organisation. Sales departments needs to communicate effectively with marketing and customer relations and so on. If inter-department communication is anything to go by, then data management should be crucial on the agenda.

A good study of Big Data reveals the enormous amount of data businesses generate or is exposed to daily. Data can be captured in various forms for business analysis. The analysis could be for suppliers, clients or operations. By having the right data in the right form, you can make business decisions that will enhance your relationship with your customers; serving them correctly, based on real-time supply and demand analysis

Data needed for enterprise processes have to be accurately captured. It is always said that the value of information is only as good as its point of entry into a system. The captured data has to be properly stored and retrieved at any time for needed analysis.

Data-loss

Many companies are losing data due to malfunctioning of the hardware that supports data storage infrastructure for them. A typical example is the common physical cause of a failing cooling fan or air conditioner in server rooms.

There are also several cases of workers deleting critical information. This can either be done deliberately or not. Irrespective of how it occurs, measures can be put in place to avert such occurrences.

Even in the case of natural disasters such as fire and flood, a proper backup plan can preserve an organisation’s data.

Some effects of Data-loss

Sales

Achieving a bigger profit margin is a puzzle for most CEOs in Ghana today. Some don’t even know the exact sales strategy that worked and which one didn’t. Sales and marketing activities have not been well-linked and documented for future use. How appalling is it that sales executives cannot even produce proper records of the net profit made monthly, quarterly or yearly?

IT Support

Most IT companies for example, have no laid-down procedures to document the cost involved in each support service they render to their clients. In fact, most of them charge yearly supports; which are always far less than the support they actually give. There is no laid-down procedure for knowing the cost involved in driving to and from a client’s site all the time. As for the man-hours spent on all these services, they can’t put figures it out to know whether it makes business sense to continue supporting a client for the next quarter or not.

Manufacturing

Talk to production managers in some companies today and they won’t be able to give you specific information regarding production levels for the past weeks or months. There is no proper data collection process that helps to even determine if the production level within a particular period in a year is the same as the year before. This usually results in either over-production or under-production within certain periods of the year.

How Ghanaian companies see data-loss or defect

Many Ghanaian companies are not growing – mainly due to fact that they cannot make a good decision from the kind of data they keep: That is, even if it is available when they need it. Given all the inadequacies in capturing and storing data, companies spend precious man-hours every day trying to correct errors from poorly-stored data.

Management believes that defects in data are just things beyond human endeavour; hence they sit down and do nothing about it. There are serious policies which streamline most aspects of our businesses today. We have, for instance, stringent measures for handling cash. It is unfortunate that the same policies are not being applied to data management. In fact, there is no top management attention when it comes to ensuring data integrity and availability for most SMEs.

Doing it right

The very first step is to establish a system within your organisation that ensures the main data deficiencies are removed. Management should assign top-level responsibility for data stewardship. The in-charge must be equipped with needed authority to insist on the best practices among all levels of your corporation.

Instead of waiting to blame nature for flaws in poor data management, management should shop around for the best solution to prevailing issues. It is also important to constantly hammer home the essence of data integrity across all departments.

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