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Opinion Piece: How investing in data can help to improve business agility and the customer experience

By Gary Allemann, MD at Master Data Management

We live in a new reality post-Covid-19, where customers are more digitally savvy, online 24/7 and have easy access to more options than ever before. Businesses need to adapt to this new reality, or they will be at a significant disadvantage. However, this is often easier said than done, particularly for large organisations whose IT landscape is so vast, complex and poorly understood that adapting to change becomes a mammoth undertaking. Starting with the data is essential for adapting businesses to deliver a modern Customer Experience (CX).

The risk of falling behind

Massive inherent complexity seems to make the risk of change too high, and the magnitude of the task becomes overwhelming, so instead of adapting, many businesses continue to operate as they have always done. The reality though is that we cannot just carry on the same trajectory. Big businesses need to become more agile, because agile businesses are at a competitive advantage when it comes to delivering a better CX.

Take, for example, digital banks. They are not encumbered by years of legacy infrastructure and process investment; they are inherently more agile and efficient. This means that they can onboard customers quickly with minimum frustration and fewer hurdles for the customer. When faced with the choice of long, drawn-out inefficient processes or a few minutes online, today’s customer will almost always choose the route of least resistance.

Haunted by data debt

The upshot is that businesses need to become more agile to adapt to changing customer need and simplify and enhance the CX. The question is, how can we adapt businesses toward the modern CX? And how do our existing legacy IT systems, processes, and ways of doing business hinder this? Ultimately it boils down to the fact that a lack of understanding of the data landscape is holding businesses back.

Large businesses, built over many decades, have sprawling and complex data landscapes that are not well understood. There is no real documentation, but shortcuts and hacks that were put in place to make things work in the moment that are now coming back to haunt us. This has left businesses with a significant amount of data debt, because data is either not well understood, not clean, or it is not of sufficient quality to enable the analytics and data-driven processes that are necessary for improving efficiency and CX.

The only way out is through

Large organisations seem to be stuck in an increasingly complex environment and it is tempting to do nothing rather than address the problems. The trouble is that this risks alienating customers as well as falling foul of increasing bodies of compliance legislation. It is imperative to start somewhere to begin building an understanding of the data landscape and developing data integrity, which is critical in delivering trusted data, consistently, to the people who need it. Begin with the basics, start to unpack the landscape, document it, leverage automation and develop an understanding of data lineage.

A top-down approach can be effective here as well. Start with identifying the business goals and objectives that need to be achieved, and then identify the critical areas of the landscape that need to be understood better to meet these business goals. Look at governance, master data management and data quality solutions that will provide the context required and then automation, data lineage and data profiling to assist with becoming more agile and improving the CX.

Doing nothing is no longer a viable option because the risk of stagnating is fast outweighing the risk of change. Investing in data integrity has been shown to improve every business metric measured in this IDC Spotlight report, and customers demand a better, more agile and above all digitally transformed experience. This cannot be done without addressing the data first.

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