Don’t Let Bad Data Turn into Big Losses

By Anshumaan Atriwal, Amy Languell and Julia Martin

Data is the fundamental, ever-changing, and often underutilized asset that can elevate or dismantle organizations. In the past two years, 90% of the world’s data was created, however, in the midst of erupting data and its numerous uses, the mantra of garbage in – garbage out has never been truer. Data is only as useful as its quality, and its quality is more heavily reliant on the common understanding created by standardization of the labels and values of the data (aka: metadata management). The cost of poor-quality data is north of $3 trillion in the U.S. and will continue to be an issue until companies start taking preventive measures.

Many businesses, excited about the opportunities that the current technology environment can provide, have made costly mistakes relying on a system to resolve an issue which is more about the data itself. Others, who have taken the time to evaluate the metadata structure of their data have been able to generate meaningful outcomes and successful business ventures.

Lost ROI on Business Investments

When Target expanded its business into Canada, the lack of understanding about how their data was stored in each system caused poor quality data to be input into inventory and supply chain systems, resulting in unreliable outcomes and decision points. Things as simple as the variation in measurement systems or currency across regions put a major rock in the gears of their systems. While the information Target used in the U.S. for operations decisions was accurate around 98-99% of the time, the SAP system in Canada was estimated to be accurate only 30% of the time. The vast array of problems eventually caused Target to close all operations in Canada and incur a write-down of $5.4 billion. If a metadata evaluation and data standardization effort had been made prior to the SAP implementation, Target may have had a smoother launch in Canada.

Old Content and New Opportunities

As consumer trends change and new platforms emerge, clean, organized data can be the critical factor in expansion. For instance, after digitizing its content in the archives, MTV can generate licensing revenue by using archived content for movies or documents. Because MTV tagged and archived their content efficiently and correctly, they were able to quickly utilize old content for a new audience.

Leveraging Untapped Data

The mass amounts of data available today can tell many different stories if leveraged correctly. The UOB Bank in Singapore used data analytics to engage in risk management, eventually reducing the time it takes for the calculation time of a risk from 18 hours to just a few minutes. When companies engage in proper data usage, by first vetting the data and building common definitions, they can draw insights, automate processes, utilize assets more effectively, and eventually steer themselves in the right direction.

Legal Implications

The U.S. Postal Service suffered a loss of $3.5 million after a judge ordered the post office to pay the damages associated with copyright infringement. The USPS accidentally used an original stock image without permission from the artist (an image for the replica of the Statue of Liberty, rather than the original), causing the artist to rightfully sue the post office. The simple mistake could have been avoided with proper content management and the financial and reputational costs would have never occurred.

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