What does data health mean to the average business owner or employee in Southeast Asia? Probably nothing or a limited amount at best, but it is probably something that we should be aware of.

According to Talend, a cloud data company launched their Data Health Survey results recently highlighting why data health has been such a persistent problem plaguing organizations for years. Some of the issues that it brings up includes the lack of connection between the people who prepare data and those who make the decisions as well as the difficulty in validating that the data for day-to-day business activities that is either reliable or risk-free

We had a chance to speak to Stu Garrow, SVP & General manager APAC at Talend about these issues and how it impacts businesses in Southeast Asia. He took his time to share his thoughts around the topic and insights into the data health aspect of the region’s business community.

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Could you elaborate on ‘data health’ and what that means in the context of businesses in Southeast Asia?

Data health is a system of technologies and behaviours working together to ensure the free flow of trusted, reliable data. Data health provides preventative steps, quantifiable measures, and proactive treatments to identify and correct issues and ensure corporate data is clean, complete, and uncompromised. It enables a deeper understanding of corporate data and ensures it is ready to underpin all corporate action.

Data health is a persistent problem that has been plaguing organisations for years but has never been addressed. Data is a challenge. Many data management companies focus solely on mechanics and haven’t stopped to check if their data is even trustworthy. If companies are unable to answer fundamental questions about their data – who has access, where is it, where did it come from – their data is unhealthy. 

Talend led a survey to assess companies’ ability to make data-driven decisions. We found that a staggering 96 percent of APAC respondents continue to face challenges in using data effectively, with 35 percent disclosing that they do not use data in their decision-making process. We also found that 40 percent of respondents reported that data quality standards at their companies were lacking, while another 13 percent of respondents were not confident in their company’s data management investments.

Data health is a complex journey of unique requirements, regulations, and risk tolerance. It will take substantial market collaboration and research to align appropriate standards for different companies. Eventually, data health solutions will help create a universal set of metrics to evaluate the health of corporate data and establish it as an essential indicator of the strength of a business. Talend’s initial framework imagines four primary focus areas to establish data health: reliability, visibility, understanding and value. We believe that data health will become a key, if not the most important, performance framework used within and across organisations to monitor and evaluate the health of the company. 

What are some of the issues that you see as prevalent in the region when it comes to data health?

The most common hurdle I see our customers struggle with is making data accessible for non-technical people like data analysts in their company. For decades, managing and using data for analysis was focused on the mechanics: the collecting, cleaning, storing, and cataloguing of as much data as possible, then figuring out how to use it later. This data deluge is drowning companies under a digital information landfill. Companies don’t know what data they have, where it is, or who is using it, and, critically, no way to measure their data health. 

Team members with a simple request shouldn’t have to get on a waiting list with IT to pull data sources together to tell a story. It’s not that complicated. The people who are best-suited to know the right data to use are the people asking for it. But they usually don’t have the time or the skills to sort through, clean, and integrate the data.

As an industry, we’ve made progress towards improving accessibility, but we can do more. In an ideal world, cross-industry quality metrics for enterprise data will be common and prevalent. More workers will be able to make data-driven decisions. 

Could you highlight some scenarios that could happen should companies continue to accept this data problem?

Companies in every industry are utterly dependent on their data. While we are seeing movement in the right direction with more executives making the majority of their decisions based on data, 36 percent of executives still are making decisions based on gut feelings and rumours. Additionally, only 40 percent of executives always trust the data they work with.

Healthy data enables an organisation to enhance sales and marketing analytics, address data governance and compliance, improve business processes, transform the customer experience, drive 360-degree engagement, as well as enable machine learning and AI. Without healthy data, all of those processes go awry. You can’t address the right customers, shorten sales cycles, or improve processes if the data you’re basing your work on is inaccurate, uncontrolled, or out of date. Unhealthy data costs companies time and quality in their decision making, and can negatively affect revenue as well. 

This is because there’s no connection between the people who prepare data and those who make the decisions or assess the state of the business. There’s no way for the people and systems on the front lines to easily validate that the data fuelling day-to-day business is reliable or risk-free. The piecemeal approach to managing, integrating, and storing data has created silos. Not only is it expensive and difficult to manage, it creates dark data where analysis cannot penetrate.

Where do you see the most potential in Southeast Asia when it comes to the issue of data health?

To support the tourism sector, the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) built the Tourism Information & Services Hub (TIH) and Singapore Tourism Analytics Network (Stan). Stan is a data analytics platform to view visualisations and perform analysis on tourism-related data, aggregated from STB and the industry, to derive actionable insights about Singapore’s visitors.

TIH enables industry stakeholders to contribute and access travel-related content and services for their digital platforms, while Stan allows users to gain access to the latest tourism data in visualisations.

With Talend solutions, STB can access quality data to make key business decisions, make real-time recommendations to visitors and help businesses widen exposure of their tourism offerings.

What’s next for Talend?

What gets me most excited is thinking about how our 1400+ employees show up every day excited to change the data game for our nearly 7,000 customers. Talend can change the way the whole world thinks about data health.

As we look for the most meaningful ways to make a difference, I see considerable opportunities in putting intelligence into the process – how we will use AI, machine learning, and robotic process automation to quantify and improve data health. While it is fascinating to think about how to automate data to become part of the norm, we must also ensure that we pay attention to the risks and build a process that balances these aspects.

I firmly believe that companies need to “own” their data in every sense of the word. They need to know where it came from, who touched it, how reliable it is, and who can see it. Once they know that, they can confidently explore the endless possibilities their data can unleash through AI and machine learning. Only then can businesses move forward, making the best possible decisions for their company’s future – and we’re excited to be building that road.