Which comes first: Data Quality or Business Intelligence?

When it comes to business intelligence, attractive, graphical reports and interactive dashboards inevitably garner more attention than the rather boring and unrewarding work of good data governance. However, whilst often neglected, the area of data quality is just as important as the analytical opportunity the data supports.

Practice Management Systems have helped legal firms shift away from paper files and utilise cloud technology for enhanced productivity, profitability and security. Underpinning those systems is the need to consistently enter accurate data that is the source of truth for the entire organisation.

Martin Doyle, CEO of UK-based DQ Global and self-proclaimed Data Quality Improvement Evangelist, states: “This is not a chicken and egg question. You cannot have information without its supporting data.”

This way of thinking rests on the idea that, without good data underpinning it, business intelligence is, at worst, useless and, at best, untrustworthy. 

Is poor data quality a brake on your business intelligence goals? 

It’s certainly true that, when your business intelligence reporting is based on data not of sufficiently good enough quality, you undermine your business intelligence ambitions. Your staff know when reports do not align with their reality. In this way, your people lose faith not only in the data itself but, often, in your business intelligence tools and, perhaps, the whole business intelligence project. 

In this way, data quality can easily become a brake on your firm’s business intelligence project or ambitions. 

What is the price of your data quality improvement work? 

It’s a rare practice that can hand on heart say it has perfect data quality. We’re all struggling with legacy system issues, data ownership, duplication and a whole host of other challenges that can affect good data governance and data quality. 

However, if you begin your business intelligence project with a big data cleaning project, you risk a different kind of disillusionment. You can wind up spending a lot of money for little discernible gain: without relevant reporting, how can your users understand the value of the clean data? Your business users will end up disappointed, thinking there’s little in it for them. 

This issue can be exacerbated when you involve staff in your data quality improvement work with too little carrot and too much stick. 

Don’t let perfect become the enemy of the good 

It’s for these reasons that understanding where to start between data quality and business intelligence can sometimes seem like a bit of a chicken and egg scenario in which you just can’t win. 

However, when it comes to data quality, we believe that you can’t allow perfect to become the enemy of the good. It’s possible to get started immediately with your business intelligence ambitions, even if you know you have issues with poor data quality. 

How? By combining valuable reporting metrics for business users with metrics about data quality. Alongside every metric, you can make it clear: how much data is missing? How much is incomplete? How much is incorrect? This way, you give staff a clear incentive to help you improve data quality. 

Harnessing the ‘what’s in it for me’ approach to data quality improvement 

Too often, business leaders expect staff to enter information into key business systems without giving them any incentive to complete the data. All too often, keeping the system updated can feel a little like entering information into a data black hole. 

This is why your business intelligence tools can play a vital role in enhancing data quality. 

You can harness the power of your business intelligence tools to give your people an incentive to ensure that they accurately and fully enter the data into your business systems in a timely way. That’s because, by choosing a business intelligence tool that presents the information they enter back to them, it enables them to see how useful information could be to them and the business. 

What does a good business intelligence tool look like?

Your staff want accessible reporting, with visual dashboards that display the metrics that are meaningful to them. It needs to be provided in real time. And to be easy to manipulate via a user-friendly interface. 

In this way, your staff can see exactly how useful the data they are entering is – and how much it can be trusted. In this way, you incentivise them to want better data. 

Including reporting metrics on data quality as part of these dashboards is vital if you are going to create a feedback loop which drives good data quality. As the reports and expectations around data quality become embedded in your practice, this feedback loop eventually becomes a virtuous circle in which business intelligence reporting drives good data quality and good data quality drives improved business intelligence – with staff empowered to feel that what they do makes a difference to both. 

What does good business intelligence look like in the UK legal sector? 

The data captured in Practice Management Systems drives invoicing and internal metrics on the company performance. Cloudify Inform uses this data to identify areas of inefficiency, including where teams and individuals have failed to meet agreed performance targets. 

Cloudify has incorporated a data quality section within Cloudify Inform which alerts the firm’s management and employees to suspicious data that may need closer examination. This feedback loop ensures that data quality continually improves leading to more accurate invoicing and more accurate measures of firm performance and identification of opportunities. 

Cloudify Inform identifies areas where time is entered but not allocated to specific matters, meaning it cannot be billed. Consistency around the actual hours, billing hours and invoicing is also flagged. All flagged items are sortable by date and the specific individual identified to allow quick resolution. 

What next? 

If you are an existing Actionstep user and you’d like to talk through how your practice might benefit from enhanced business intelligence capability, please reach out to the Cloudify team today. You can reach us here or by emailing: info@cloudify.legal 

If you aren’t already using Actionstep, we can help you with that too. Why not give us a call on: 01865 521 039