Never mind the data quality, feel the speed

Complacency in the boardroom has entrenched responsibility for data management issues firmly with the IT department, despite a growing reliance on electronic data to make sound company decisions, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) survey.

However, Howard Charles, technical services manager for Suncorp Metway Bank, argues that the board should not have responsibility for data management issues anyway.

"Data management issues tend to be looked after by IT departments, normally as infrastructure. This is traditionally where it has always been managed and has generally been due to a combination of reasons but, especially in the banking and finance area, due to audit requirements," Charles said.

"I don't think businesses want to understand what the data issues are anyway, except that they know they are asking for more data."

According to PwC's Global Data Management Survey 2001, 90 per cent of companies interviewed expected their reliance on automated decision-making to increase over the next two years, but said there was little sign of increased board-level scrutiny of the quality of the data on which those decisions would be based.

Charles said data management was becoming more of an issue. "We are being asked to store more data at a continuously rapid rate. But due to the decreasing cost of hardware, the board has not [been concerned as data management has not] really revealed any cost issues."

The report said the board's complacency translates into the fact that less than 50 per cent of companies polled have complete confidence in the quality of their own data, and less than a fifth have confidence in the data passed to them by other companies.

"Of the companies surveyed, 75 per cent had experienced significant problems as a result of faulty data, while up to a third had been forced to delay or scrap new systems," the report said.

The survey, which was undertaken late last year, covered Australasia, America and Europe -- Australia representing a third of the global respondents -- also found that about a third of companies polled lacked shared information systems across departments, instead defining and storing information along departmental lines.

"Shared information systems have always been a problem. Companies are seeking to address the problem. However, this issue has not always been driven by quality issues, but now companies have turned their focus to a more customer-centric view," Charles said.

With regards to formalised data management strategies, Charles said processes such as privacy and security compliance were most important. Just 20 per cent of PwC survey takers mentioned the measurement of the value of data to the business as of high importance.

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