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Data Is Creating Better Governance In Companies

With a proliferation of data, companies are now under the microscope

8Aug

We often talk about data in terms of what it can create, how it can increase sales, decrease waste, and help to engage with your audience more effectively. However, the use of data within the business can be as, if not more, important than any outwards facing use.

Corporate sustainability is constantly being questioned and those who fail to operate in a sustainable and moral way are being publicly shamed more and more frequently. Sir Phillip Green in the UK may have his knighthood removed because of his lack of sustainable business practices when he ran and then sold BHS, we have previously seen Fred Goodwin, who oversaw RBS when the bank nearly collapse, lose his knighthood over his business sustainability failings.

In fact, the sustainable running of companies has been at the centre of some major decisions in the past few months, with Stephen Hawking even claiming that the wealth inequality between company leaders in the UK was a reason for the Brexit vote. Theresa May, the new Prime Minister in her first speech also said 'We need to reform the economy to allow more people to share in the country’s prosperity.' The very core of both of these statements comes from a lack of business sustainability, something in which data has a huge part to play.

We have seen with the above examples that the idea of both ineffectual sustainability practices and excessive executive pay contribute to a toxic system of mistrust and hatred. A study by MSCI recently revealed that over a 10-year period up to 2014 'If you invested $100 in the companies run by the best-paid 20% of CEOs, you would have seen a total return of $265. If you had invested $100 in the companies run by the worst-paid 20% of CEOs, you would have got back $367.' It adds fuel to the fire that the richest in society are only working for self interest.

One of the key reasons we are seeing this more is because data behind companies is far more visible.

It is easy to see the salaries of the top performing CEOs compared to not only the performance of a company, but also the reaction to it online and the comparison to others both within the company or to comparable positions in others. Investors are also now more informed about how companies are being run, so elements like excessive pay or unnecessary risks being taken are likely to knock confidence in investments or share prices.

However, it is not simply the leaders of huge companies who are frustrating others through actions or excessive pay packages, but the executives and others within the organization. Take Enron, Cendant, Bernie Madoff and several others, if the data surrounding their operations had been properly analyzed it could easily have shown the underhand and dangerous tactics they were taking, something that could have been picked up by even half competent data scientists if given the tools to do so. Would these schemes have been able to occur if effective oversight from internal and external stakeholders had access to the data produced by modern companies? It is doubtful.

Corporate sustainability and responsibility is often seen as a fairly beige subject that few people care about, but the truth is that if it’s not done effectively it can destroy companies. What we have seen through the mistakes of business leaders in the past is that the only way to stop it happening is by having a complete view of your company. Modern data techniques allows this to happen. Previously, it would have been impossible to see damaging actions taken by individuals if there are tens of thousands of employees, but through data visualization this becomes entirely plausible. Having the ability to accurately see what's happening in your organization gives people the opportunity to stop potential negative actions, something that data and new visualization techniques have allowed us to do.

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