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It's time to clean up your information landfill.

It’s time to clean up your dirty data

| Business efficiency

Did you know that as much as 25 per cent of all the critical information in the world's top-performing businesses is flawed? That's the 2007 finding from Gartner, and as we continue to use more data than ever before, would it be surprising if that figure was higher today? Absolutely not.

It's called dirty data and it's slowing down employees, affecting customers and clients, and making executive decisions much more risky. That's because information is an integral and hugely influential business asset – though it's not being treated as such.

According to Tech Target, dirty data costs US businesses alone more than $830 billion (US$600 billion) each and every year. Spring may have sprung, but the opportunity for a clean up is as strong as ever. So, is it time to clean your data with effective information management?

25 per cent of all the critical information in the world's top-performing businesses is flawed

What is dirty data?

Dirty data comes in the form of duplicated records, flawed files, outdated information and other tiresome issues. When finding the right information fast inspires productivity, decision making and the ability to meet compliance and legal requirements, incorrect data gets in the way.

Businesses need clean data, but that's not possible with the current processes in place. Everyone in an organisation is responsible for data, after all, but there are very few rules around managing it.

For instance, when a new file is sent to an employee, very few organisations have the governance and procedures in place that dictate where that information is stored, which departments it could be useful for and for how long it should be kept. It's no wonder data centres are stuffed with irrelevant, duplicated, out-of-date and overall dirty information.

How dirty is your business data?How dirty is your business data?

Who's responsible?

The issue can hardly be blamed on employees. Information is one of only four business assets available, and should be managed as such. This is the job of executives and even board members – information needs to be better understood and, more importantly, true management is needed to make clean and valuable data.

It is not something that can be swept under the carpet, like other dirt. By that we mean it should not be brushed to IT departments as an IT issue; these professionals are not responsible for data – executives are.

Instead, there's a desperate need for information governance that goes back to basics with data management. 

What can you do?

Ask yourself how your organisation would look if you treated your money like you did your information. If your answer – like many others – is "we'd be broke", it's time for a clean.

Just like your finances, you need four things in place for effective information governance:

  1. Accountability – A fully empowered CIO or CDO, much like a Chief Financial Officer, who is responsible for information management
  2. A framework – One akin to a financial chart of accounts, known as a business classification scheme 
  3. Tools – Similar to a balance sheet, these are the resources for staff to manage information and keep it clean (a metadata model, for example)
  4. Authority – Again like a CFO, someone needs to have the ability to delegate and lead change from the top of the business

Much like cleaning your home or your finances
, there's no easy way to go about it. When we consider the value of finding accurate information quickly and its impact across the whole business, it might be the most important tidy-up you ever have!

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