By Kane Hochster
Chief Sales Officer
Every business collects data of some kind. Small companies may keep customer records in spreadsheets while global organizations use multiple systems to manage everything from HR data, sales, assets and workplace management.
But having data doesn’t automatically mean the reports gleaned from that information are accurate and actionable. You know the saying, “Garbage in, garbage out”? Businesses may be great at collecting data, but is it the right data? Is it being used to meet objectives?
“Inaccurate data means you’re basing decisions on bad information, which may mean building a workplace that doesn’t meet employees’ needs or drains facility management budgets,” said Kimberly Castle, account director with Buildingi, an IWMS/BIM consulting firm said. “You may also be leasing too much space because bad data shows that 15% of your workforce doesn’t work in the physical office anymore – when the true figure is much higher.”
Many businesses are learning a hard lesson as they navigate their ongoing responses to COVID-19. The constant flux of COVID safety mandates puts greater emphasis on the need for real-time data to create processes to meet those standards. Companies must rely on accurate reports to make decisions on everything from maximum allowable occupancy for conference rooms to workstation spacing to where to position contactless circulation pathways. As work from home policies persist, most firms will seek to adjust their portfolios and add flexibility to promote workplace choice. That’s where a robust data governance system comes in.
For clarity, data governance is not the same as data management. CIO Magazine defines data governance as: “A system for defining who within an organization has authority and control over data assets and how those data assets may be used. It encompasses the people, processes, and technologies required to manage and protect data assets.” Data management is the logistics of collecting and storing information – a must for data governance to work.
Bob Sits Where?
Fellow Buildingi account director Amber Miller once helped a client combine an integrated workplace management system (IWMS) with an HR system. This common integration is designed to make it easier for users to update where they sat, so the HR platform was populated with a list of room numbers.
“But then we started noticing anomalies, like people being assigned to a bathroom or hallway. We had to go back and have the client apply data governance rules to limit which types of seats and rooms were approved for the data feed,” she said.
Then there’s the issue of corporate tech systems not speaking the same language. Castle was helping a large life insurance company integrate data from multiple systems.
“There were all these terms that had a different meaning in every system. For example, the definition of ‘full-time employee’ or ‘headcount’ wasn’t the same across the board,” she said. “And that was a problem because data reports would get sent to the CEO with glaring discrepancies.”
Think of it this way: One person may collect and store information (data management), but a large number may access it, run reports, and use those details to make strategic decisions. If one person alters or uploads inaccurate data, the change effects everyone downstream. That can cause big problems if your job is reporting compliance levels to regulatory agencies or preparing a company’s tax returns.
“It’s one thing to collect and track data, but if there’s no data integrity, you’ll simply get ‘garbage-in and garbage-out,’” Castle said. “Technology allows us to automatically flag where things don’t match; a tight and consistent data governance program is key to getting everyone on the same page.”
Data Governance and COVID-19
The ups and downs of COVID-19 is creating a new urgency for companies to collect data on and analyze employee movement in the workplace. Data on occupancy, furniture arrangements, and desk reservations is a starting point for health and safety measure implementation. But without rigorous data governance, employee movement and contact tracing information are unreliable.
Floor-to-ceiling elevation is one metric that’s been impacted by COVID because it impacts air quality and flow, Miller said. Before the coronavirus forced everyone to think about ventilation in new ways, space planners didn’t have cause to look across a floor layout. Now, data that was once used almost exclusively by facilities is being analyzed and acted upon by executive management, HR, and other departments.
COVID-19 has put greater emphasis on why data governance is the foundation for quality workplace data management. Companies are asking questions of data sets that weren’t in the original parameters, searching for answers that will ultimately keep businesses open and employees safe. As organizations look beyond the pandemic, better data governance is critical for making confident and productive strategic decisions about workplace management now and into the future.