At risk of bad data

Data is only accurate when that accuracy can be proven and ignoring the effects of inaccurate and badly maintained supplier data has many detrimental effects on an organisation, Edward Smit, CEO of National Registry, tells SmartProcurement.

Making a decision is an exercise in calculating risk, whether consciously or subconsciously in the decision-maker’s mind. Risk influences our decisions on a daily basis and how the risk is managed plays a part in our success or failure, says Smit.

Inaccurate data is one risk that many entities are unaware of and which others prefer to ignore. Consequently, many crucial decisions are based on inaccurate data, which may put supply continuity at risk.

The worst mistake is to assume that data is accurate, says Smit.

Data inherits inconsistencies and irregularities, especially when physically captured from one source to another. The more data is transferred, captured and recaptured the more inconsistent it becomes.

When data, i.e. suppliers’ phone numbers, email addresses, etc., is inaccurate, it is difficult to communicate and adhere to set timeframes. Errors could also occur with the capturing of invoices (adding a zero or forgetting to insert a decimal, to indicate cents, could change the financial picture quite drastically).

With data accuracy of 80%, which is generally high, says Smit, any reports and decisions based on the same can at most be 80% accurate. Even if the decision is the correct one in terms of the reporting figures, there is still at least a 20% chance that the decision is wrong, because of misrepresentation owed to erroneous data.

Furthermore, inaccuracies can bypass the most stringent validation methods, because data can still be wrong even if it conforms to a specific capturing format. If one digit is wrong, the format could be correct, but the information is wrong. Therefore, data accuracy is as much an initial cleansing exercise as it is a continuous maintenance of new and existing data.

Awareness of the inefficiencies in data capturing is only the first step. The fact is that the data accuracy needs to be proven for anyone to state that it is indeed accurate. However, this is a labour-intensive task that requires human intervention and is rarely a core business function.

The focus for all entities is on core business and allocating available time and resources to those activities has a direct influence on the bottom line. National Registry has included data cleansing and maintenance as part of its core functions and can manage this process on behalf of an entity.

The complete function can be outsourced to National Registry where an entity will receive alerts on changing data, incremental updates and more. This will insure that the information is always accurate and current without the need for in-house expertise or management and with the added benefit of data accuracy proven by the National Registry.

National Registry offers a complete solution to maintain supplier information accurately and will be exhibiting at the SmartProcurement World 2010 Conference and Exhibition at Gallagher Convention Centre, Gauteng. For more information on maintaining data accuracy contact Edward Smit on

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