Clean data is good data. There is no doubt about that. Every executive worth their salt knows better decisions stem from accurate and timely information. When information isn’t current, relevant and precise then the decisions arising are either lucky or bad.

For corporate decision makers this is critically important. Many executives face the problem of inaccessible and manually captured data which is owned by others, not adequately collated, polluted by duplications and frequently poorly verified and validated. This bad data stems from paper forms, manual handovers, disconnected systems and weak capturing processes.

Many companies spend enormous amounts of time and energy gathering, validating and inter-relating data in order to generate their periodic performance reports. It is such a struggle that frequently (and alarmingly) people start to maintain their own subsets of data to inform their own decision making. Doesn’t the fur fly when opposing parties with personal “proofs” come into conflict because there is no reliable single source of truth?

The gathering and validating of data is something the Office of the CFO habitually excels at. The very nature of this role in finance, underpinned by rigorous processes and legislative mandates means  it is a fundamental financial skill to gather, verify and report data. So the CFO is a prime candidate to lead a business in its pursuit for clean data and accurate analysis across the enterprise. This post is all about the cleanliness piece. The analysis piece will have to wait for another day.

The finance team is adept at capturing, validating and verifying the ‘beans’ of the business. Debits and credits need to balance. Accounts are reconciled. Transactions are matched. The correct suppliers are paid the correct amounts and ditto for customer collections. Finance know how to do this for themselves. A big and common gripe of the finance team is the ‘dirty’ data foisted upon them by other divisions in the business. To the finance team, the importance of clean data is a mystery that other people don’t seem to understand how.. To their credit, when that dirty data gets caught in the safe hands of the finance process it gets well scrubbed on its way into ‘the system of record’.

A mindful CFO is in a position to successfully influence the bad habits of others. It may come down to a few key pressure points: benefit, accountability and ease.

  • benefit – “offending executive:- You will get better results, make quicker and more informed decisions and enhance the reputation of yourself and your division if your team cleans up its act”.
  • accountability – “offending executive:- You and your team are the owners and source of this data so you must become accountable for its accuracy”.
  • ease – “offending executive:- To make it easy for your team to solve this, I will introduce you to some people that can help you devise better processes and systems”.

This could feel like a confronting conversation for some, however being part of the solution by bringing a partner to the table that can solve the problem helps make it a collaborative rather than accusatory conversation.

There are a range of ways to tackle different data cleansing needs. If you’d like to discuss your challenges (or those of your offending executive) and ways to solve them, please contact us.


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