Many organisations may be facing a catch-22 situation when it comes to digital transformation and data quality management. One helps the other, and vice versa. A successful digital transformation strategy includes a complete understanding of how a business operates using new techniques and trends to fine-tune efficiencies. Yet, with better techniques and more efficient data management, businesses may be able to fast-track digitalisation itself.

It is perhaps a good quandary, representing a challenge in how to balance the two factors for maximum benefit. Good data helps digital transformation, and by being a more digital business, data quality could be improved.

Let’s initially look at what the benefits of digital transformation are, and the key challenges of digital transformation in improving data quality management.

Digital transformation benefits

Most small UK businesses are using technology to boost operations and operate more effectively, according to a study by Hitachi Capital Business Finance. Going digital is understandably imperative for many business leaders.

It's easy to see why. For instance, the UK’s Institute of Export & International Trade highlights many broad digitalisation benefits, including reduced time delays, improved sustainability, and growth and visibility of supply chains. At a granular level, digital transformation could ‘improve processes and productivity, deliver better customer and employee experiences, manage business risk, and control costs' (Citrix).

Despite these benefits, there are challenges in getting a digital transformation project up and running. Common factors include resistance to change (failure rates are as high as 70%), project delays (wanting quick results can lead to project abandonment, says Raconteur), and poor security (only 6% of businesses said that 91-100% of their transformation is going to cybersecurity budgets).

Business leaders could meet these challenges early. Change management programmes, for instance, may help employees engage with digital transformation efforts. (The CMI’s Change Management Process Checklist is a great resource.) Rushing into digitalisation can be alleviated with good planning. Part of this is building a digital transformation test team to ensure the strategy is robust and that the project isn’t abandoned early. (nFocus highlights the importance of building a core digital transformation test team.) Finally, there's some useful advice from data protection and security specialists in this article called ‘Top security risks in digital transformation and how to overcome them’ by InformationAge.

Good preparation appears to be the route to avoiding project abandonment. A robustly prepared modernisation project could help businesses gain benefits from their data. With improved data quality thanks to digitalisation, organisations may be able to sort through vast quantities of data more efficiently and effectively. (HSO says 90% of today’s data didn’t exist before 2019. There’s a lot more data for businesses to process these days!)

Yet, improving data management processes by means of digital transformation is arguably looking at things the wrong way around. We now know what the core benefits of digital transformation are, but how can a digitalisation programme be improved by data quality management?

Lay the foundations of better data quality management

According to Royal Mail research, inaccurate customer data costs organisations on average 6% of annual revenue. While businesses may have more data to analyse than ever before, data accuracy remains essential. With accuracy comes reliability. So, from an employee perspective, it's critical that business leaders provide the tools and infrastructure to ensure quality data management practices.

Gartner says: ‘Organisations are accelerating the speed of their digital transformations by introducing digital products, adopting cloud computing, modernising their business processes and embracing distributed infrastructure to leave the data at [the] edges. At the same time, they are facing greater challenges in data quality from a mix of diversified and distributed datasets.’

With this in mind, reliable, trusted data and improved data quality management could improve how a digital transformation project is launched.

How to use data quality management to boost digitalisation

Businesses can make more informed decisions with better data. The more employees know about ‘the daily processes they implement, the technologies they use, and the efficiencies (and inefficiencies) of various organisational pipelines’, the better those decisions are. Here are a few tips to help people improve data quality management practices.

Define business needs and understand the data

Continually assess and reference business needs against the data. Because there’s so much data to process, knowing what’s required of it to align with business objectives is a useful place to start. That way, businesses can gather what’s influential, rather than superfluous. The key is to see the bigger picture of where the company needs to be, not just where it is, and understand the data enough for it to be functional.

Treat the data well to ensure high standards

Data quality management issues may creep up on organisations further down the line. The origins of an error may be difficult to track or remedy, and the result could be poor data quality and unhelpful information. This is why it’s essential that data is scrutinised and amended at the source, rather than when it has moved further along the chain. The role of a qualified data quality team leader could be the difference in managing data as early as possible.

Encourage a data-driven culture

Encourage everyone in the organisation to contribute to data quality management. A business that stresses the benefits of having a data-driven culture may reap the rewards of a more effective digital transformation agenda.

Whether digital transformation is driven by data quality management, or the other way around, leaders must look to find the balance that’s in the business’s best interests. When the business is running well, employees may well feel the effects.