The value of a data audit

A data audit will help your organisation identify potential:

  • reward & value-add e.g. from alternative data or data-marts;
  • risk and loss e.g. in relation to governance & compliance;
  • omissions e.g. gaps in data, patchy metadata or broken processes;
  • impediments to digital initiatives e.g. legacy, ‘dark’ or poor data;
  • nasty surprises e.g. the removal of desktop ‘squirrelware’.

Lost data value

For example, ‘dark’ data: data which is not analysed and from which no value accrues, is now expected to normalise at over 90%+ of unstructured organisational data according to IDC. That means:

  • organisational data swamps carry a significant cost overhead;
  • organisations are unlikely to have a full picture upon analysis of their data domain;
  • most organisations cannot discover even half of what data they hold, indicative of related metadata difficulties;
  • organisational data is not reliable or valid so decisions founded on that data may also prove unreliable;
  • AI / ML or other data-driven initiatives will not realise their transformative benefits.

Dark data may be junk, or it may be a hoard with potential value – you won’t know till you investigate!

Dark data arises when processes leave it behind, deposited in caches across the business.  Typical examples include:

  • data residing in individual desktop spreadsheets;
  • document or presentation content and iterations where version control has been absent;
  • email attachments, downloaded, ignored and unmanaged;
  • legacy data, devices and systems;
  • customer information that is past its sell-by date;
  • unstructured data (pictures, diagrams, photos, emails, social media);
  • files and notes generated by previous employees or relating to previous projects;
  • analytics, reports and survey data;
  • logs, dead account information and transaction histories.

What is the risk of not doing anything about poor data?

Accountable and responsible organisational leaders can no longer afford to be intimidated by data or digital. They should increase their digital savvy in line with:

  • the risk of personal liability in the event of non-compliance;
  • likely significant organisational risk (reputational & financial);
  • their investment in digital ‘transformation’ which is likely continuing to disappoint.

The concerned board or executive should be able to make a counterfactual business case “what is the risk of not doing anything about dark data; what are the cost implications?” for which indicators might include:

  • the comparative effort devoted to data discovery, validation and aggregation in comparison to analysing and reporting on that data;
  • the number of different sources there are for a single KPI and whether different analysts arrive at the same conclusions regarding said KPI?
  • their investment in digital ‘transformation’ which is likely continuing to disappoint.

Get a data audit! Compared with the risk and cost inefficiencies your organisation might be exposed to, it’s well worth it – and recommended preparation for digital metamorphosis.