Entity Data Integrity

Lauren Mcmenemy
Speak to any senior leader of an organization and ask them what's important. What do you think the answer will be? Business strategy, for sure. Strong leadership is a likely topic. Perhaps they'll speak of profit and growth, or even a happy and fulfilled workforce if they are modern, authentic and empathetic leaders.

How certain are they to talk about the data in their organization, though? How interested are they in entity data integrity, in how things are collected and stored and accessed? That's generally not something the Board worries about. They will be presented with complete data and given advice for decision-making, but how much do they really think about how it's gathered and what it really means? How heavily do things like entity information weigh on the minds of business leaders?

The general counsel and the company secretary know how vitally important entity data integrity is to the business, as do the legal operations professionals and the compliance and governance teams. It's what they live and breathe; it's what their job roles, and their strategic thinking, are based on. But do senior business leaders truly understand the impact this data has on strategy, and the direction of the wider organization ' and, by extension, how important entity data integrity is for business growth?

Then again, is it actually important for them to grasp this vital necessity? What will it do for the organizational governance and for board operations as a whole? Surely, entity data integrity is a matter for delegating to those who deal with these things every day, leaving senior leaders to worry about what's on the horizon?

Entity Data Defines an Organization

The answer lies in this statement: An organization's entity information quite literally defines that organization. It is the backbone of the business, and, alongside the complete audit history, it represents the corporate memory. Within this data lie both the nitty-gritty details and the bigger picture.

Entity data contains both clues to where a business has come from and the myriad paths that lie ahead of it. This organizational information, the lifeblood of governance, can shed light on risks and challenges on the horizon. It can help to gauge if a potential M&A opportunity is worth pursuing vigorously. It can zoom out or zoom in on specific parts of the business to get the full picture in a visualization.

In this era of big data, when more pieces of information are processed and stored than ever, preserving the integrity of any data that's collected gets increasingly important. Data integrity refers to the overall accuracy, completeness and consistency of data, as well as the safety of that data for regulatory compliance and security. Is the data collected and stored in a way that regulators will be happy with, and is it safe from external threats?

There are two types of data integrity: physical, which is protecting the data's wholeness and accuracy as it's stored and retrieved; and logical, which keeps data unchanged as it's used in different ways in a database. It's important that not just the data collectors but also the data sponsors and senior leaders understand the fundamentals of entity data integrity, implementing measures to protect that entity data, not just for its useful life, but for legacy reasons, too.

To get there, all involved ' not only those responsible for day-to-day governance and compliance, but also those leading the business ' need to understand what's under the proverbial hood. That's how data is collected, how it is stored, and how it can be accessed in the most efficient, secure and effective way.

Threats to Entity Data Integrity

However, that vital entity information can easily be fragmented throughout an organization, making it difficult to retrieve, ensure legal compliance and manage risk. As a business grows and disperses, its data necessarily splinters. The more people accessing and collecting data, the more likely human error will be introduced to the process or entity data will fall out of date or become corrupted.

Human error is a recognized risk in any process, but there are other potential threats to data integrity. Business leaders should consider how entity data ' and, therefore, business operations ' could be impacted by other modern threats such as unintended transfer errors, compromised hardware, cyberattacks, security errors and malware. Cybersecurity must go hand in hand with entity data integrity, and so the CTO and the CIO must take the lead and work with senior leaders to help them understand the issues and opportunities that lie within entity data integrity.

Why Senior Leaders Should Pay Attention to Entity Data Integrity

With all of this said, then, why should senior leaders in the organization pay attention to entity data integrity? It's clear that any strategic decision ' be it for business growth, for changes to day-to-day operations or even for downsizing ' must be made based on robust data, and entity data is what will give insight into the potential impact of any decision on the business.

More than that, though, entity data can help senior leaders to, for example:
  • Assess M&A opportunities
  • Get ready for IPO
  • Decide how to enter new markets and territories
  • Make a change to how services are offered or products are made
  • Optimize workforce capabilities
  • Ensure the right talent is in the Board pipeline
  • Maximize profit and minimize losses through correcting group structures

Entity data is what helps senior leaders to make all of these decisions and more. Without looking at the corporate memory and extrapolating data into scenario planning, senior organizational leaders would rely purely on their experience and their gut instinct.

How Technology Assures Entity Data Integrity

An entity's data is only as good as what's input ' and how it's stored and kept up to date, of course ' which is why any business leader should make sure that their organizational data is stored and managed in a robust way. It should be easily accessible by those who need to get ahold of it, whenever they need to access it and from wherever they are.

One of the essential ways to protect data in modern governance is by using technology platforms to automate, secure and control access to that data. This can not only help to ensure the integrity of entity data, but can also help track down the source of issues through audit trails and digital footprints. Ensure entity data integrity through strong governance, assigning clear functions and duties to make sure that everyone takes responsibility for maintaining data integrity. Have clear policies that demand the regular examination of entity data both at ground and senior management level.

Entity management software such as that offered by Diligent helps ease the burden of maintaining entity data integrity by allowing those access controls while storing entity information in a secure, cloud-based platform. It enables senior leaders to access robust entity data when they need to, where they need to, and ensures that they are getting the most up-to-date information available. For example, the cloud-based nature and central repository ensures no two people are making different changes to the same document, with version control taken care of.

But it's not just about the entity data integrity ' entity management software also gives senior business leaders the bigger picture, enabling strategic decisions to be made effectively and efficiently, based on strong entity data that's simple to understand and easy to access.

The integrity of entity data should be a key operational issue for senior organizational leaders. Get in touch and schedule a demo to see how Diligent's entity management software can get senior leadership engaging with and understanding the importance of entity data integrity.
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Lauren McMenemy

Experienced journalist Lauren McMenemy has been writing about compliance and governance for several years, and has covered finance, professional services, healthcare, technology, energy and entertainment.