Companies are losing revenue opportunities and customers because of bad data practices

New report shows that poor data structure seems to be a significant barrier at many organizations.

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Businesses are missing out on revenue opportunities and losing customers because of bad data practices, according to a new report from commercial data and analytics Dun and Bradstreet.

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Nearly 20% of companies have lost a customer due to using incomplete or inaccurate information about them, and an additional 15% said they failed to sign a new contract with a customer for the same reason, the report said. The research is based on a survey of 510 business decision makers in the US and UK conducted by Censuswide in March 2019.

Nearly one-quarter of the respondents said their financial forecasts have been inaccurate, while 17% offered too much credit to a customer due to a lack of information about them, and lost money as a result.

The report found stark discrepancies between both countries. For example, compliance has been nearly twice as big a concern in the UK than in the US, which might reflect the challenge of meeting the requirements of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). More than 10% of organizations report having been fined for data issues related to compliance.

The way data is structured appears to be a significant barrier at many organizations. There are indications that data is often poorly structured, difficult to access, and out of date. Nearly half of the respondents (46%) said data is too siloed to make any sense of it.

The biggest challenges to making use of data are protecting data privacy (34%), having accurate data (26%), and analyzing/processing data (24%).

The lack of structure might reflect the fact that 41% of business leaders said no one in their organization is responsible for the management of data. The absence of ownership could also explain why more than half of the surveyed organizations have not had the budget needed to implement data management practices.

Companies need to make data governance and stewardship a priority, said Monica Richter, chief data officer at Dun and Bradstreet. Whether they are exploring artificial intelligence (AI) or predictive analytics, clean, defined data is key to the success of any program and essential for mitigating risk and growing the business, she said.

The survey indicates that there is a growing recognition that responsibility for data should be a priority for C-level executives. But business leaders are divided as to who on the leadership team actually owns responsibility for the data and how that might change in the future. All business leaders agreed that the CEO has ultimate responsibility for data, more so than even technology leaders such as the CTO or CIO.

A majority of organizations acknowledged that data will be vital to their future success. However, fewer than one quarter of them said they have employees that are dedicated to the management of data, or the right talent to implement effective data management.