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By Owen Pettiford, SVP of SAP Digital Transformation at BackOffice Associates

 Data is now the most valuable asset a business can have, and this is perhaps most true in the finance sector and can have dramatic impact on business outcomes. With a year of vast regulatory change, with MiFID II and GDPR both coming into effect, organisations are now tasked with ensuring this data is in the best shape possible to help comply with these. In light of this, it may not be a surprise that 80% of CDOs are now setting aside budget for data management and machine learning to automate tasks.

Poor data can expose a business to regulatory disclosure risk. Greater awareness of data laws means the stakes have been raised when it comes to a business’s accountability. So how can you be sure that your data is in good condition, maintain its value and also help deliver on key policies?

Owen Pettiford

Owen Pettiford

Firstly, creating a data-first mindset across the business should be a priority. This can be a daunting task, even if it is being done for both regulatory and revenue reasons. For it to be successful, it needs to be accepted by everyone in the company and reinforced from the very top.

It may cause a sigh or two, but education needs to be the foundation of this change in approach to data. This will often be the sole responsibility of the CFO or CDO, however, it needs to be a team effort. After all, all members of a business will be using data in one way or another Poor data quality can have a huge impact on, costing time and money and possibly reputation. The ramifications of inaccurate, inconsistent or incomplete data should be communicated across the entire organisation – from Chair to intern.

Once this is instilled, not only will data will become increasingly refined to the best possible quality, it will also become more commercially valuable while adhering to regulatory requirements.

Next, once your teams are aware of the importance of data and why they should care, appointing a ‘data advocate’ within each team can help reinforce the message and cultural change. They will need to have full insight into current working processes and is able to influence colleagues to continually show data the respect it deserves.

Showing this diligent approach can also help secure buy-in from the board and help secure budget for implementing and maintaining an ongoing data governance strategy. Just as attentively as you are approaching staff mindsets, these procedures will need to be fine-tuned during their implementation, testing and reviewing. Something else to consider will be that team members will inevitably be pulled away from data duties if the business requires it, so a contingency plan will need to be put into place. Not only will this ensure that your data will remain in a good state, but also demonstrate across the business the importance that is placed on it.

Finally – and perhaps vitally – is the case for implementing the technology that can take on the bulk of the manual work. Data management services can be customised to suit the specific needs of individual businesses and are often highly flexible. As well as providing best practices in data quality and the right processes to remediate any errors, they can also minimise the need for human intervention. When comes to instilling that data-first mindset, it can help to take the burden off of busy teams and allow them to focus on what they do best.

Once this mindset is well and truly ingrained into a working culture, it can be a tool that can be used to help unlock valuable revenue opportunities. Up to date and accurate real-time data can give you that edge over competitors – the best business decisions can’t be made using yesterdays’ data after all.

With a solid and supported internal education campaign, the best practices and strategies in place and the right technology for the business implemented, cleaning up your data act will not be as painful as it first seems. With hefty fines for not doing so, businesses can’t afford to sit back and relax.

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