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Thursday, 15 August 2013 12:27



Top five tips to save on costs


In today’s tough economic climate, unnecessary company costs are always top of mind, especially for small to medium enterprises (SMEs) that face many challenges pertaining to their growth, such as sufficient cash flow.


According to Michael Barr, Chairman of SureTransact, an innovative mass electronic payment provider, in order to manage cash flow effectively, it is important to always be fully aware of the various monthly company costs, as well as the unnecessary expenses which could be cut in order to save money.


Gerrie van Biljon, Executive Director of Business Partners Limited, “Cash flow difficulties are generally one of the most devastating challenges for small businesses...says that a common downfall for companies, from small enterprises to large entities, is poor cash flow management. “Cash flow management is a key challenge and companies need to manage their cash flow according to the sector they operate in by taking into account the challenges they could, and are likely to, experience.”


Businesses are often unaware of smaller, less significant costs which they may routinely pay each month, such as additional electronic transactional banking fees. “While these costs may be minimal, they accumulate to large sums of money over long periods of time, and could be put to better use, such as reinvesting into the business,” says Barr.

Barr refers to a recent independent survey commissioned by SureTransact, which revealed that 51% of businesses do not know whether they are being charged additional electronic transactional banking fees for EFTs such as batch upload fees, beneficiary amendment fees, or viewing fees for online platforms.


He says that this is just one example which highlights how additional, and often unnecessary expenses, can slip through the cracks. “Cash flow difficulties are generally one of the most devastating challenges for small businesses, and ultimately affect a business’ bottom line. By eliminating unnecessary costs, businesses may be able to ensure higher profits.”

Barr offers five tips, which may assist businesses to save on their financial costs:

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Published in Accounting & Payroll
Wednesday, 16 January 2013 12:24

Top tips for marketing your business in 2013

Top tips for marketing your business in 2013

During an economic recession small and medium enterprises (SMEs) often adopt a survivalist mentality by focussing on cost cutting strategies that ensure short-term success but, ignore long-term prosperity. According to Gugu Mjadu, Executive Manager of Business Partners Limited, marketing tends to be one of the first spending areas to be cut when times are tough. “Marketing is not only one of the most vital functions of a business, but, counter-intuitively, the slower the economy, the more your investment in your marketing efforts needs to be.”


Mjadu however indicates that such an investment does not have to be in cash. “SME owners can cut their marketing budget provided they increase their marketing effort in other ways, such as increasing their  team’s focus on marketing, or spending more time on it  themselves.”


She offers the following insightful marketing tips to SME owners looking to succeed in 2013:

  • Cut the waste, but be careful not to over-prune: This principle undoubtedly applies to marketing efforts, in which 80% of a business’s success can be derived from 20% of its marketing efforts. There is therefore plenty of opportunity to cut activities that yield poor results. SME owners should subject marketing efforts to the same rigid cost-cutting and efficiency that every part of the business has to undergo in these tough times, but when doing so, they need to remember that the results of marketing efforts are often pending. It can take years of constant attention and experimentation before a business owner can be sure which marketing plans actually work.


  • Mine your existing customers:  It is a well-established fact that winning over a new client generally costs six or seven times more than winning repeat business from an existing customer. Although some components of a marketing plan should always be aimed at gaining new customers, a strategy to sell more to existing customers will almost always yield more results.

    Simple systems such as sending a note to a customer thanking him or her for a purchase, together with a special offer for an additional buy (plus a deadline to create a sense of urgency) can work wonders. Incentives could also be created for existing customers to send business in your way. Offering them a discount or a bonus for every new client they introduce is only one way of doing it. Some businesses take a much more subtle, indirect approach – they make the customer experience so amazing that they will tell their friends and family about it.


  • Don’t compete on price:  Most owner-managed businesses are too small to compete based on offering the lowest price. That is the preserve of multi-national corporations that can leverage economies of scale to produce products at a price lower than SMEs and are able to source the raw materials.  Rather concentrate on quality, the warmth of personal service and flexibility to meet individual clients’ specific needs than on low price. 


  • Repeat your message: It is very difficult to measure, but some studies show that it takes about seven contacts to convince a customer to buy. This obviously differs from industry to industry, but whatever the average, the principle is that it will nearly always take more than one pitch to convince customers, often via multiple communication channels or ‘touch-points”. For example, don’t do one pamphlet drop, and then drop the idea because the results were poor. Rather plan a series of them and evaluate it after the entire campaign. The same applies to any other marketing efforts. Remember however that there is a fine line between reminding a potential customer often enough that you are there, and making a nuisance of yourself.


  • Get a web presence:  If you are not online yet, you are making a huge mistake. Even if you are happy with your customer numbers at present, sooner or later your lack of internet presence will catch up with you as the world becomes increasingly wired.
Published in Media & Marketing
Tuesday, 04 December 2012 12:46

Who still cares how much money VoIP can save?

Who still cares how much money VoIP can save?

Voice over IP. What’s left to say? You can save money. Lots of it. It’s great for moves and changes, super easy, even the receptionist can do them. Sure. Tell me something I don’t know. It’s time we moved the hoary old VoIP conversation on a little.


How about this: most of what you hear in these conversations about VoIP is smoke and mirrors. Even if it’s not wrong, it’s often also not important.


Let’s start with Number 1. By moving your telephone lines to a VoIP system you will save money and be a hero to the company.


This is wrong in two ways. Firstly, you might not be able to save money with VoIP indefinitely. You save money if the cost of carrying a call is lower over VoIP. But what if Telkom slashes phone call rates? Whoops!  Moving from a tried-and-tested landline system to the sometimes tricksy VoIP world, for savings that may not materialise?


And will you be a hero to the company?  IT directors get a budget to work with. Do they really want to go to the CEO and say, “Hey, we’re saving half a bar a year on voice calls! I can get by on a smaller budget! Do I get the premium parking spot now?”


No – if an IT director finds a way to save on costs, wouldn’t he want to take that budget and allocate it to something else on the critical projects list. Show him you can save money, and then give him something clever to do with that cash that will help his company and add real value.


The CEO and the FD have heard the cost savings story from VoIP providers before. They like it – cutting costs always rocks their world. But VoIP has been around in mainstream South African business for ten years. They’ve heard the promises. They also know that VoIP can be hard to get 100% right. They’ve had to deal with the fallout of unmet expectations. If they have any sense, they’ll kick the decision on VoIP back to their IT director to ask the hard questions of the vendor – because he’s going to be the one out on a limb if something doesn’t work.


So lets stop talking about cost savings. Yes, they’re there. No, they shouldn’t be an all-consuming reason to look at VoIP.


For most IT decision makers, VoIP provides no magic bullet that kills some big pain. The IT director is not going to get fired for sticking with the tried-and-tested Telkom. If he manages to successfully implement VoIP across all offices, branches and satellites, he may get a pat on the head, but no ticker-tape parade.


So what can he do that will make it worth his while to take the potential risk when it comes to choosing the right partner?


How about doing something cool, something hi-tech, and something that will directly impact staff productivity?


Rather than looking at VoIP in terms of how it improves the plumbing, rather look at staff habits, work practices and real life interaction, and how VoIP and the new age of digital telephony can improve that. Make no mistake, we are going that route – there’s really cool stuff that can be done with a bit of imagination!

Example: if you move to VoIP, it’s not a big stretch to then do a full integration of cellphone connectivity to the PABX.


Almost every exec carries a cellphone. At the office, out the office. We don’t look up a number and dial it if we can help it, we’d rather select a contact and hit “go”. That’s our habit. Work with it. When we can’t find someone at their desk, we call their cell. That’s also our habit. Work with it.


Maybe integrate a Closed User Group cellular package with your existing landline infrastructure, where all calls between these cellular and landline extensions are zero-cost. When you call someone within the CUG, from either your cellular phone or normal extension, the call is free. In other words, your cell phone now becomes an inter-branch call like any other extension within the company. There are a few options when it comes to the base cost of the Closed User Group; all depends on the group’s size and package chosen.


Cost saving – nice. Doing something cool that helps people get their jobs done more easily? Priceless.


Then take it a step further – set up white lists of customers, partners and staff, so that private calls can be billed back to the individual. Black-list problem numbers. Allocate different white and black lists to different staff groups.


No staff member needs a mobile phone number on their business cards – calls are rung through from the company PABX to ring on both their landline extensions and cell phones. They choose where to pick up the call.


In fact, forget about cellphones and look to tablets. So many execs carry them around – even to the water cooler. Why not run VoIP to tablets through a good, business-quality messaging client that has directory synchronisation with the company contact list? That’s something that’ll impress the top brass.


Integrate your VoIP with your CRM and sales force automation systems. Do a bit of thinking about how to reduce information duplication and errors by ensuring that contact information and case files are synchronised.


The reality is that VoIP is a commodity technology.


Assuming you pick a partner that is technically skilled enough to get it working, and working reliably and consistently (and let’s not forget – VoIP is not trivial to do properly), it’s much of a muchness which system you use.


So VoIP vendors should not be sending an IP telephony technician to clients, they should be sending in a Business Analyst to work out how VoIP can be more than a way to get a better voice-minute rate, and then get the engineers working on the solutions. Technology from the top five or six suppliers are pretty similar; it’s the value-added services and integration that counts when choosing who to partner with.


The IT director is not so much interested in cost saving projections as in whether the VoIP provider he’s talking to would be a good and reliable business partner. Will you add value to my business and life? Will you be responsive and take ownership of the system you’re making so many promises about? Are you going to implement VoIP in a way that does not make my life harder (like interfering with other network traffic)? Can you come up with good ideas to make VoIP part of a productivity-enhancement package?


On the typical IT director’s list of personal priorities, saving a few per cent in call charges is not big. Having more time to do his job is. Getting kudos for doing cool things for the company is.


The VoIP solution should be about productivity, time saving, labour saving and lastly about cutting costs.

Published in Mobile
Friday, 26 October 2012 12:45

The Power of the cloud collective

The Power of the cloud collective

The cost-cutting advantages of cloud computing are well-publicised and accepted. Which company wouldn’t relish the prospect of paying only for the services they use or adjusting consumption up and down according to business needs? Of course – it is not without its pitfalls.


Simply put, no single cloud provider can deliver all the cloud services a business might want to procure, which means that there is often a need to use multiple vendors. And these vendors, if they are attuned to the marketplace, have to make sure that all they are able to integrate and accommodate a variety of in- and outsourced systems and keep all the moving parts working together effectively.


Gartner has said that the various systems that support technology are becoming as important as the technology itself, predicting that mash-ups, joint projects and integration will dominate the market. After all, businesses are finding that they need the ability to speak to their customers and access information across a variety of technologies. We’ve already seen that time-constrained technologists are composing applications and programs through collaboration and mashups, as opposed to creating them from scratch. Collaboration in the cloud is particularly powerful.


We’ve seen the success of integrating our own platform from Interactive Intelligence with Salesforce.com. Part of the reason we chose to do this was because Salesforce is, in all likelihood, the most popular CRM product in the world – with trends companies predicting that they will have captured 25% of the market within the next five years. But mostly we decided to integrate because we believe in the power of using cloud-based CRM programmes.


For one thing, we want customers to buy into the concept of running at least part of their business in the cloud. If Salesforce doesn’t turn out to be what you need, you can switch it off at the end of the month and change it to something else. You can’t do that if you’ve made a huge upfront capital investment in a system. And for us, integration was virtually effortless. It was simply a matter of downloading a pre-packaged integration application from their app centre.


We want to create a world where companies run in the cloud – without expensive data centres, complex upgrades or on-premise software. All of this, of course, integrated with social channels like Twitter or Facebook that allow businesses to tap into the wisdom of the crowd and gain new insights into what their customers are thinking.


As cloud computing continues to gain momentum, buyers and providers of outsourced services have to take note of the actions they will have to continue to take in a world where the cloud business model continues to permeate all aspects of enterprise. It is important to choose the right solution and service delivery model, since it influences everything – basic set-up of the technology, operation, trouble-shooting, quality assurance and technology refreshes.


In the end, cloud services need to be understood, supported, deployed and managed by competent partners. By choosing a partner with a service-centric, consultative approach, customers can be sure that core issues such as their call routing and queues are set up with the help of the experts, reports deliver the best possible analysis for their business type and goals, and their system functions with optimal quality and productivity.


This again proves the argument for making use of a hosted cloud service platform that provides a single point of contact and an end-to-end solution that includes integration into company systems.


There are many ways in which to fail at the risky business of setting up and running a call centre. Partnering with the right platform provider is one way of ensuring you don’t fail before you’re even out of the gates.


Published in Software
Friday, 26 October 2012 12:39

Cloud technology could lower cost per user by 70%

Cloud technology could lower cost per user by 70%

Shifting to cloud technology could save businesses 70% of their IT cost-per-user, says Jeff Fletcher, co-founder of independent networking services company three6five. “There are significant savings to be realised when businesses shift to cloud technology, due to decreased operational expenditure and capital expenditure. Once businesses realise the savings to be made it will further grow this emerging market segment,” says Fletcher.


Many clients find that their server infrastructure is no longer under warranty and that their current business requirements are not being met by their aging software systems. “This is the perfect opportunity for companies to investigate the cost savings of shifting to online services. Comparing the cost of online applications versus investing in new server hardware and software over a three year period many customers realise the large savings to be had by shifting to cloud technology. One cost comparison we did for a customer showed savings on cost-per-user over a three year period of 70%,” explains Fletcher.


“Fixed hardware costs and software licensing fees form a considerable portion of IT budgets. Add to this higher software support labour costs, annual infrastructure maintenance costs and administration labour costs and you land up with upgrades that could cost three times that of an equivalent online application that can do the same thing,” says Fletcher.


While online cloud solutions also have upfront costs, annual licensing fees and administration labour costs, these are significantly lower than the fixed hardware and software costs of traditional solutions.


“It is well worth it for companies to investigate the savings they could realise by shifting to cloud technology, especially in today’s tough economic climate where cost savings are increasingly important,” Fletcher concludes.


three6five is an independent networking services company based in Johannesburg, South Africa. The company provides the expertise that large companies and Internet Service Providers need to build, improve and manage their IP networks. The teams advanced technical skills are complemented by an extensive heritage in determining both the business and technical requirements for taking commercially successful services to market.


Published in Networking
Wednesday, 17 October 2012 00:00

The hidden pitfalls of unmanaged software: How unused applications are costing companies millions

The hidden pitfalls of unmanaged software: How unused applications are costing companies millions

When it comes to managing software licenses and assets, most companies focus on compliance – rather than cost-cutting. Organisations are over-licensing, buying more and more software in order to err on the side of caution. This can be an extremely costly mistake.


On the face of it, very few organisations have software asset management strategies in place, exposing the company to considerable financial risk. As long as software is bought and licensed legally, it’s forgotten. Very few organisations stop to detect unused software or shelfware (that is never deployed to begin with) across the myriad of systems, locations, PCs and servers- never mind reclaiming or reusing them.


Bundled deals, license options and virtualisation have all contributed to the complexity of software asset management. Organisations are struggling to reconcile the software they have actually deployed with the software they have licensed. Very few seem to know how much money and waste is being tied up in their software and how much they could save by efficiently managing their software licenses. Add to that the fact that software vendors are becoming increasingly more vigilant, clamping down through regular vendor audits which result in heavy fines, substantial back-charges and the threat of legal action. (Virtually all agreements with software vendors stipulate that they will have the right to audit at least annually.)


Fearing being caught with unlicensed products, many organisations respond by buying even more software, ignoring the very real danger that it will never be deployed, used or add value. This results in unnecessary costs as companies are still paying maintenance fees for software they aren’t using or purchasing additional licenses rather reallocating existing ones. Analysis conducted on a number of local organisations showed that at least 20-40% of licenses deployed are not being used – and definitely not reclaimed. In USA alone, this represents $12.3 billion in preventable and ongoing costs, with a typical enterprise with 10 000 users using $4.1 million worth of unused software on PCS, costing $1.1 million annually on ongoing maintenance.


Disorganisation is another concern, particularly not having a handle on what software is deployed in your organisation and how many licenses of that particular piece of software are deployed. Typically organisations will purchase a number of licenses, known as their license entitlement.  However, when more than the entitlement is deployed, they have to pay additional for the additional usage.  This represents not only a financial risk but also a reputational risk - for all intents and purposes, this is construed as license theft if not disclosed and procured.


CIOs should be asking themselves, on a regular basis: What do we own? What are we using? And of course, What do we really need?


By deploying license metering and tools implemented like 1E’s AppClarity that provides the ability to reclaim unused applications both in an automated fashion, as well as a user centric approach, companies can curb their unnecessary costs dramatically. 


Software asset management tools should also be deployed and maintained to ensure that license entitlement and deployment remain in synch. The software efficiency report of 2011, showed that 52% of enterprises used spreadsheets to record software licenses, 12% using paper-based filing systems and 12% - use nothing whatsoever. Keeping track of licenses is the key to remaining cost efficient.


In the end, there is no excuse for not having a software asset management strategy in place – there is technology that will do it for you. This is a quick and effective way of eliminating software waste in the company, while still safeguarding the organisation against a vendor audit.

Published in Software
Wednesday, 17 October 2012 00:00

Cloud-based contact centres of the future

Cloud-based contact centres of the future

How hosting enables customer responsiveness in small business

With instant gratification a fact of everyday life, a strategy of customer-centricity is a hallmark of competitiveness. Market leaders employ cutting-edge technologies that connect them more closely with their customers, enable a better understanding of their needs and allow shorter response times.

Published in Mobile
World economy brings on changes in employee bonus and increase thinking

With another tough year behind business around the globe, many employees have been left feeling devalued and unappreciated. Cost cutting has had a major impact on increases and bonuses for employees and though everyone is aware of the reasons, in many cases it does not take the sting out of not receiving the additional cash injection. In South Africa, the rising costs of living brought on by the weakening rand, rising oil price and surging energy costs have many consumers feeling the pinch without any relief.

"It's caused added tension and dissent in the workplace, however employers have some tough decisions to make in the current economy. For many employees this has been the second or third year without a bonus or significant increase, which is effectively meaning they are earning less in real terms not to mention in relation to the escalating costs of living brought on by the electricity and fuel prices," says Lyndy Boland – acting Managing Director for Manpower Group South Africa.

"This year, employers will again be considering whether to implement bonuses and raises. The South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry's Business Confidence Index (BCI) in April dropped to 94.3 points, the lowest in three years. This April's figure was 8.2 points below the April 2011 level. However, it is not simply a case of waiting for things to get back to normal, in fact it seems things have changed permanently with regards to the working environment. The economic troubles have changed the way employers and employees operate as we move into a 'human age' of business. Many employees and business are sitting, expecting things to stay the same as they always were without realising that things have changed and they need to change with them in order to move forward."

It will start meaning more power in the hands of those willing to learn and adopt and less in those who are not. Increased income will be in the hands of individuals through the way they work and learn, using their skills to add value to their services and their remuneration. Bonuses and increases are no longer the given they once were, they are now becoming the payment for value received.

"While many employees wait to start receiving their annual perks again when the economy picks up, many employers have questioned the need to continue with the way things used to be. Changes in the economy have thought them to maximise staff skills and redistribute jobs. These perks are increasingly becoming the means to keep and attract the 'right talent' instead of 'any talent' as the world becomes increasingly competitive and desires ever-increasing standards of output. For many employees this has left them feeling 'left out in the cold' but new thinking proposes a harsh reality – learn multiple skill sets and keep on learning as distinct and static positions are a thing of the past.

"Though some may view this as a negative, the power is shifting toward the individual as the decision maker in their careers and how they are remunerated for it. The shift is a move in a positive direction and is almost a revolution in terms of how businesses and people, work and live. Living in a "new normal" that is anything but normal, epic shifts are converging and moving the world into the Human Age. Identified by Manpower as a new world era, the Human Age will be an era of great transformation, radical changes and new developments, where business models will have to be redesigned, value propositions redefined and social systems reinvented," explains Lyndy Boland – acting Managing Director for Manpower Group South Africa.

"As attitudes change, time too is become much more of a commodity than ever before, employees are appreciating more of it and employers are seeing the benefits of it and it being increasingly used as a means of reward or negotiation as people either seek to utilise more time for themselves or more time working. This to may prove to offer some alternative to the 'old' practice of raises and bonuses across the board based on performance appraisals and reviews. Things have changed a lot in the last few years, and it doesn't seem like they'll be going back to those ways again any time soon if ever," concludes Lyndy Boland – acting Managing Director for Manpower Group South Africa.

Wikileaks - information site where confidential Goverment and Company information has been leaked to the public

Economic conditions are a very pressing challenge for organisations of all sizes around the world, resulting in squeezed budgets. One such area is IT. As a result, many organisations are turning to outsourcing as a business model, as it offers savings, flexibility, scalability and the ability to access resources on demand rather than having to hire them full time. However, as a result of the unique conditions in South Africa which include a massive skills shortage, and in an effort to further save money, some organisations are turning to temporary staffing solutions to fill critical posts. This can be a costly mistake.

While temporary staffing are often cheaper in the short term than an outsourced provider, and can help to fill gaps in the IT environment, there are certain areas where temps are not the ideal solution, typically mission critical areas such as the database. When it comes to the database, knowing the difference between outsourced and temporary resources and choosing the right one for your business could make all the difference.

In areas such as the database, it is simply not possible to assign a nine to five value for tasks such as database administration. The IT environment does not stop working at five in the evening and over the weekends, like people do, and many organisations do not realise that temporary staff members may not be available after hours. If they are available, they need to be paid after hours rates, which are generally a lot higher than normal rates. In critical areas such as the database, organisations will be left with little choice other than to pay the 'after hours' rates, since the consequences of extended downtime are undesirable. Temporary staff may also call in sick, or even leave the organisation, which means that these staff will have to be replaced – a significant challenge in a skills scarce environment.

An outsourced provider, however, is contracted by a Service Level Agreement (SLA) to deliver a certain level of support, irrespective of the time of day, the day of the week and so on. These providers stake their income and reputation on being able to provide the services organisations need, when they need it, which is a far better option in mission critical environments. Outsourcing also provides a service, as opposed to a staffing solution. This means that even if the usual resource handling an account is unavailable for any reason, the service will still continue as there is a pool of resources for the outsourcer to draw on.

Outsourcers can provide 24/7/365 support for critical IT applications and infrastructure, and their business is built on delivering these services to the highest standards, whereas the loyalty and commitment of temporary staff can be low as they have no incentive otherwise. Furthermore, temporary staff are often not included in company training due to budget pressures. If the employer does not invest in upskilling temporary resources with additional training, there is little opportunity for growth. Their key performance indicators may not necessarily be aligned with those of the business but rather aligned to the temporary contract.

Outsourced resources are highly trained and are exposed to many different environments from which they are able to learn. Their training is kept up to date by the outsourced provider, and certifications are also of the utmost importance, since it is in their best interests to maintain the highest levels of skill. Outsourced providers, through SLAs, will also ensure that the key performance values of the outsourced resources are aligned with the business, since outsourcing at its core is a business service.

When it comes to the IT environment, not all areas are mission critical. Not all aspects of IT require the high levels of service delivered by an outsourced provider. Some areas work well with temporary staff, particularly in areas such as web development where the task at hand is not a 24 hour job. The database is not one of these areas. It is critical to the business and it needs to be secure and maintained. A database administrator must be able to access all of the data contained within a database, which could prove dangerous if this task is handed to someone with no loyalty to the company, as the Wikileaks saga proved.

Database administration requires a trusted, skilled resource who will document processes according to best practice, who has the necessary skills which are kept up to date, and who will be available whenever needed, whether this is after hours, on the weekends or during the course of a normal business day. No single resource will be able to provide this, but an outsourced service provider can.

An organisation would never hire a temporary security guard, as this represents a huge business risk – the guard may not be loyal because he has no job security and he needs to sleep and have days off. Even hiring an additional security guard does not solve this problem, as one guard may get sick, both may leave and so on. Security is not a one person job, it should be a service. The same is applicable to database support, where the modern business is hit hardest if something goes wrong. Business solutions such as outsourced services are critical to keep the database, and the business, up and running optimally at all times.

Published in Storage & Data Centres
Assessing your data quality – going back to basics

We all understand that quality information is an enabler for cost cutting, risk reduction and revenue enhancement. Yet, companies have different approaches to managing the corporate information assets, ranging from ad hoc, tactical projects to meet specific goals, to strategic imperatives that seek to embed data quality principles across the corporate architecture.

This makes it difficult to know where to start, what is effective, or whether you are on track or not for success in meeting the data management challenge.

For many organisations data management remains a reactive process, with individual project teams or business areas identifying specific data issues that are impeding the ability of the project to achieve a specific goal. Short-term measures may include tactical data cleansing initiatives, with or without a tool, and typically do not take corporate standards and goals into account.

Reaching a mature state requires a metamorphosis from this chaotic approach to more proactive approaches that incorporate data quality metrics, standards, shared master data and data stewardship. An enterprise driven focus on data management requires data management principles to be embedded in the corporate culture - being driven both top down and bottom up.

Just a caterpillar does not become a butterfly in one step, it is important to build upon early successes in a sustainable way to reach data management maturity. The starting point is being able to understand the state of your data and once this is established, planning how to improve this is the next logical step. From here, identifying opportunities for incremental improvement will allow you to maximise the value of your information with benefits such as lowered costs, improved efficiencies and customer retention to mention a few.

A crucial success factor is to appoint custodians of the data that take responsibility and most importantly, are accountable for the state of the data. Many organisations have failed to achieve data integrity due to the fact that IT blames business, business blames IT and the end user blames their line manager. Data has no boundaries and is an integral part of each and every component within the business, whether it is sales, finance or operations. Setting the company up for successful data quality means that responsibility must be clear across the entire organisation, and that the consequences of non-delivery are also clear.

Once this step is addressed, it is pointless embarking on a data quality exercise or project if there are no measurements in place. It makes sense to create a ‘baseline’ of the quality of your data (which is usually established with a survey and a data audit) and then key value indicators (KVIs) should be established in order to measure the improvement and success of the data quality initiative. These baselines should be linked to the business impact of failing data quality – there is no point in trying to address data quality issues that have no commercial impact on your business.

In order to fully realise the benefits of a data quality exercise, having the right tools is another fundamental. Many companies are lulled into the false sense of security that their ‘stack’ solution that incorporate data cleansing will suffice but more than often, the functionality is limited. Specialist tools are purpose built and therefore provide richer features and functionality. However, it is also important to note that technology alone is not the panacea to a business’ data quality woes. It is recommended that a data quality specialist assists with the project and in some instances, it is better to outsource the project or initiative to a specialist. They deal with data quality issues on a daily basis which ultimately means they have more experience and insight into some of the trickier issues that need to be dealt with.

In order to tackle the first step of establishing the data of your data, take this free survey, , to assess the effectiveness of your approach against those taken by over a thousand IT and business professionals across the globe.

Published in Analytics & BI
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