Many companies struggling to harness their data, report finds

One of the keys to success for any business in the current environment will be the ability to take control of data and leverage it to make interactions with customers more interesting and relevant.

This is according to a new study by Experian, which found nine out of ten organisations are looking to take advantage of information in this way. Some 95 per cent of companies also feel compelled to use data to understand customer needs, find new customers or increase the value of each customer.

However, despite the growing recognition of the importance of harnessing data, many businesses are struggling to make the most of this potential. This is mainly due to worries over the accuracy of information and the lack of a clear strategy for ensuring data quality.

More than nine of of ten organisations (92 per cent) think their data is likely to be inaccurate in some way, up from 86 per cent who suspected this last year.

The volume of inaccurate data is also on the rise. Last year, respondents stated that they believed an average of 22 per cent of their data was inaccurate, up from 17 per cent in 2013. This year's survey revealed another rise, with over a quarter of total data (26 per cent) now thought to contain errors.

This is having an impact on business' bottom lines, with 23 per cent of organisations agreeing that revenue has been wasted as a result of poor-quality data.

At a time when more companies are looking to invest in advanced big data analytics systems, having good-quality information with be essential in making this a success. If poor-quality information is fed into these solutions, businesses will not be able to trust the answers they get out.

While automated systems to improve the quality of information are becoming more commonplace, nearly a third of businesses (29 per cent) still use manual checking processes to validate and clean their data.

Boris Huard, managing director of Experian Data Quality, said this illustrates the need for a new breed of data professionals who will be expected to play a key role in meeting these challenges.

"Chief data officers, chief digital officers and director of insights are emerging new roles which have come about in response to the pressure and opportunity presented by big data," he stated.

Organisations are planning to make improvements to the way they handle their data this year to deal with this. Some 86 per cent of respondents to the survey said they expect to make some form of data quality solution a priority for 2015, either by implementing a new system or improving what they already have.

Businesses will also need to work on improving their level of sophistication when it comes to dealing with data, as only 26 per cent of respondents rated their activities as being in the highest category.

"Putting automated systems in place makes a big difference and will clearly reduce errors," Mr Huard continued. "However, the effectiveness of any system depends on how you use it. You will need the right processes and people in place to manage it – not just in IT, but in business roles where it really matters."