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Organisations are using data to drive management decisions more than ever. This month the Deloitte CIO panel examines the topic of managing data quality and asks to what extent is this purely an IT matter?

Competitive and regulatory pressures are a concern and if management is to avoid exposure to risks for which they can be held accountable, reliable and accurate data is a must. Our CIO panel research shows surprisingly few organisations have processes for identifying and resolving data quality issues in business-critical areas, from financial accounting to information security.

Business can ill afford to shelve data concerns. Of the CIOs polled, two thirds claim data quality issues have had a negative impact on their business in the last 12 months, and one fifth said it affects them on a daily basis. Two-thirds also rated the quality of the management information as “average” with “areas where it could be improved”.

Although good quality information can bring significant competitive advantage and benefits to the organisation, the CIO panel results show that within their respective organisations, data quality is considered on a project-by-project basis rather than on a strategic level. Furthermore, half of those polled said their organisations view data quality as an “IT issue”.

A pure IT remedy and a piecemeal approach to data quality issues or problems should set alarms bells ringing among senior decision makers of any business or, public sector organisation. Companies need to recognise that data quality must be addressed from source and through the life of the data. Such lifecycle management requires changes in culture and systems. Technology debates about data consolidation or which data cleansing tools to use are missing the point.

Despite this, very few organisations represented on the panel have a strategic commitment to systematically and consistently manage data quality. Many business and public sector organisations rely on their management information to underpin major strategic decisions. For this reason, it is surprising how few resources are devoted to data quality issues in key areas. While 75 per cent of businesses polled have such processes in place for their financial accounting, only 63 per cent do for internal audit, 56 per cent for information security assessments and 50 per cent for inventory management.

Managing data quality strategy and the associated risks throughout the life of the data proactively is not only key to responding to competitive challenges, but is increasingly mandated by regulatory requirements, such as e-government initiatives. The complexity of today’s organisations and the implications of not properly managing data quality means CEOs need to sit up and take note -data quality is not simply an IT issue.

Ross Cattell, IT risk partner at Deloitte. To join the panel or suggest a topic please e-mail ciopanel@deloitte.co.uk. For results see www.deloitte.com/uk/cio

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