Data Paralysis? 5 Things to Consider with your Process

The best decisions are data-driven, but data analysis needs focus and direction

Every department utilizes internal data to influence business decisions and report on performance. Whether you are on the executive team, a member of the board or a key practitioner, it is now the expectation that you will be able to quickly and easily grab complex information about the performance and realities of your business at a moment’s notice.

The rate of change with regard to regulatory compliance requires companies to react quickly to demands from external influencers such as the DOJ or SEC—and even from prospects, customers and stakeholders (no one wants to do business with a company that is at high risk for regulatory action because of noncompliance). Without the right insight and data, a quick reaction—especially a well thought-out one—is much more difficult. Companies simply cannot afford to not be data-driven in today’s business climate.

Understanding every component of your compliance program allows for better decision making.

Understanding every possible component of your company or compliance program allows for higher efficiencies, transparency and BETTER DECISION MAKING. After all, the best decisions are informed decisions, and to make those you actually need accurate, insightful information—you can’t get that without complete and accurate data.

These five considerations for your company’s data intake processes and procedures will aid in your transformation to a data-driven organization:

1. Empower the data analysts

If you are an executive, empower your practitioners. Make it known that data validity and process is important to you. This makes your internal stakeholders aware of the importance of taking the extra time to be diligent about documentation (it makes all the difference).

More often than not, your data gatekeeper will not be one of your most senior staff members. While some Chief Compliance Officers may analyze program data and building reports, it’s more often the task of directors and managers. These people are in the programs and data everyday, but they are not executives and may not have insight into business objectives or key metrics the executive staff and board of directors wish to track. Because of this, they need executive support to identify the type of information executives strive for. If the boss is interested, the rest of the organization takes interest. Period.

2. Track what is important to you and your stakeholders

This is as much an internal communication tip as it is about data. Valid data is holistically dependent on strong, defined processes. Defining your KBRs (key business requirements) as early as possible will allow you to gather salient information early on, which makes gaining historical insight easier. It also mitigates the extraneous data that costs you in storage and clutter.

Communicate with your executives, audit committee and board members to understand what metrics are most important to them and collaborate on new metrics or areas you would like to understand more about. If you begin noticing a trend, don’t be afraid to dig into it—even if it’s not within the identified metrics. It just might surface some important information that no one thought about before.

Don’t forget to keep an eye on the regulatory landscape and external benchmarks—you can’t live so much within your own organization that you fail to collect data that’s important in other respects or that the DOJ and SEC have deemed vital.

3. Shoot for the stars

Which brings us to actually defining your KBRs. My recommendation is to shoot for the stars and see what you can accomplish. It is advantageous to take a “go big or go home” mentality: you will quickly realize that it is very easy to extract high level data from a vast data source, and extremely frustrating and time consuming to try to derive granular correlations from a data set that only skims the surface of your company’s realities.

4. Commit to Real-Time Data

Easy access to real-time data is an absolute necessity. Whether you are setting up automated reporting to track the activity of your sales team, getting company attestations for your new code of conduct or managing a sensitive case with high potential risk, your data needs to be just a few clicks away.

This is the age of on-demand information and you should extend that mentality to corporate and compliance data.

Real-time data not only lets you monitor the actual health of your program and organization (there’s nothing worse than discovering a months-long problem at the end of the quarter because you didn’t have the data until now), it also makes end of quarter and year reporting much easier. Rather than collecting and sifting through backlogs of data, you already have an idea of trends and the skeletons of reports that simply need updating and broader and deeper analysis.

This is the age of on-demand information and you should extend that mentality to corporate and compliance data.

5. Centralize

It is easy to get bogged down in a mountain of technology systems: training and communication systems, internal records databases, hotline intake channels, etc. (plus less tech-heavy software such as Excel and Tableau). Siloed systems can cause a lot of confusion around what data lives where, who owns what systems, how information is being collected and documented, and so on.

When possible, centralize. Having most, if not all, data in one place mitigates potential confusion, but more importantly, it will inevitably lead to greater analytical insight. You will spend significantly less time cleaning and blending your data, and more time relating complex data sets to find those hidden correlations that drive decisions and success.

Every company should be utilizing internal data to influence business decisions. The implementation and procedures associated with data collection are integral to the validity of your information and the integrity of the decisions derived. Push yourself and your teammates to go the extra mile and ask the hard questions in regards to your department’s data. To quote Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of one of the first analytical problem solving heroes, Sherlock Holmes:

“I never guess. It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit fact.”