Good quality data; how to invest in good quality data

Every piece of data you are holding has a cost; a financial cost to your organisation, and/or an environmental cost to the planet. In this article we’ll explain those costs and explain how to invest in good quality data instead.

If data is stored electronically on servers, more data means more servers, and your organisation pays for server space. The environmental cost comes from the huge amount of energy that’s used to power the servers, as well as the air conditioning to keep the servers cool and all the other infrastructure.

Any hardcopy data represents a financial and environmental cost in terms of the paper, the ink, the printing, the storage of archiving boxes in a warehouse, and the fuel used to drive boxes to and from the office.

If every piece of data or information has a cost, how do we reduce excess costs, and turn the cost into an investment?

By only storing good quality data. Holding onto anything other than good quality data is a waste of resources.

The Regulator of Social Housing said in its Consumer Regulation Review of September 2020:

“Good quality data forms the cornerstone on which all other assurance of compliance is based, and we would expect registered providers to seek assurance on the quality and integrity of their data in the course of their business.”

By stating “Good quality data forms the cornerstone on which all other assurance of compliance is based”, the Regulator is saying housing associations can’t provide reliable assurance of compliance if they don’t have good quality data to base their assurance on.

So what exactly is “good quality data”?

The Collins dictionary definition tells us that “good” means something that’s likely to result in benefit or success, and that “quality” is the standard or characteristics of something.

Let’s consider what characteristics of the data you hold will likely result in benefit or success for your organisation.

1. Relevant to your purpose.

2. Accurate and up to date.

3. Protected from misuse, destruction or corruption.

How to improve the quality of your data?

From experience, many organisations skip number one in the list above, and go straight to number two. This makes sense though; it’s clear that inaccurate or out of date information isn’t going to help anyone. Decisions and judgements based on inaccurate or old data are likely to be flawed and holding onto this data is just clogging up the systems, servers, and shelves.

There are a number of technical tools for improving data accuracy, using both proactive and reactive methods, too many to go into here.

But let’s go back to number one because if you aren’t considering how relevant data is, there’s a high chance of putting a lot of time and effort into making sure your data is completely accurate and up to date, then finding it is of absolutely no use to your organisation.

If data doesn’t help you fulfil your purpose, all the resources you put into collecting it, storing it and ensuring its accuracy are wasted.

Worse than that, irrelevant data can actually distract you from your purpose. It can be tempting to try to do something with data because it’s there, and this can drive you to resource irrelevant activities or services, based on irrelevant data.

To gauge whether data is relevant or not, at CPDP we have a simple test, called the “So What?” test!

If the planned use of the data doesn’t clearly align with the organisation’s purpose, we are going to ask “So What?”

And we don’t shy away from challenging the answers about how useful and meaningful the planned use of the data is. (I always say, you don’t go into this line of work to become popular!)

The third characteristic in the list of what makes good quality data is that it’s protected.

Data probably won’t stay good quality for long if it’s too easily accessible and can be deleted or amended when it shouldn’t be (either intentionally or by accident). You can end up with the data being corrupted and no longer accurate, which adversely affects your services and decisions.

Or it can be lost completely and you can’t provide your services or make decisions at all.

Even worse, if the data is about people, if it gets into the hands of someone who shouldn’t have it, the data could be used in a way that actually causes harm to those people.

How the Purpose & Data Alignment Programme will help

Good quality data is a valuable asset for any organisation, especially for social housing providers. Our Purpose and Data Alignment Programme provides RPs with the tools, templates and strategies you need to ensure all your data is the best quality, allowing you to more easily fulfil your purpose.

To find out more about the Programme, and how you can invest in, and benefit from, good quality data across your organisation, fill in this form and we’ll email you information, or book a free call by clicking below.

If you have any questions about data quality or our Purpose and Data Alignment Programme, book a free call!

Clare draws on over 20 years of experience in risk management and quality assurance, including ten years in data protection, to provide clear and practical advice and training.

Don’t tell everyone (shh!) but Clare’s favourite sector to support is social housing. She worked in a large housing association for 12 years, although she loves to support all values-led organisations.

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