As machine intelligence advances and cybersecurity vulnerabilities multiply, businesses must face a new challenge in data management. Your ability to reap the rewards of the digital economy now rests on your ability to protect and demonstrate the veracity of your data.

How do you determine if your data is real? If the information you base vital business decisions on is truthful and accurate? At its heart, the Data Veracity trend outlined in Accenture’s Technology Vision for 2018 revolves around your ability to answer these questions – today and in the future.

In the era of digital acceleration, the success of your business increasingly depends on the data you use to guide your strategy and your key processes. But how will you know whether that information accurately reflects your reality? How can you be sure that it hasn’t been corrupted by malfunctioning assets or tampered with by outside forces?

Safeguarding the integrity and veracity of your data is one of the most important challenges in the digital economy. Tackling it requires a fundamental change in perspective, both with regard to cybersecurity and the role of information management within your organization.

Why Data Veracity Matters

Using data insights to drive better business decisions is not a new game. What has changed, however, is the speed at which the game is played. In the past, decisions could be based on information that was days, weeks or even months old. This gave organizations the opportunity to validate their data from a human perspective. If something seemed off about the latest dataset, those responsible for processing and decision-making could make a judgment call and intervene.

Today’s reality is entirely different. Modern businesses must make real-time decisions based on an ever-increasing, never-ending flow of real-time information. The immense volume of data and the rate at which it must be processed easily outstrip the capacity of the human mind. We no longer have the time or the ability to check everything personally, or to trust our experience and instincts. Information has outpaced our ability to internalize and evaluate it.

Information has outpaced our ability to internalize and evaluate it

As the digital revolution marches on and vital global industries increasingly delegate decision-making processes to intelligent machines, the importance of data veracity becomes ever clearer. These systems rely heavily on truthful information. A needle of manipulated data in the haystack of constant inputs can wreak havoc on production environments and public services alike, potentially eroding public trust in the digital economy.

Unpacking the Snowball

New digital technologies have created unprecedented opportunities for optimization and growth in a wide range of industries. Take refineries, for example. In the past, process optimization was limited to individual plants and production systems, whereas organizations now have the ability to optimize all refinery operations across their entire global network. By linking front-end trading, enterprise resource planning and data control systems together and adding machine learning capabilities, refineries can even adjust their production mixes automatically to meet rising demand in any given region. Clearly, the potential that digital transformation has to offer is staggering.

Now imagine, for a moment, that part of a refinery is taken offline. Perhaps a set of broken valves trips an emergency shutdown, or a hacker tricks the control systems into suspending production. Output grinds to a halt, but the sensors keep pumping information into the data lake as if nothing is wrong. In this scenario, an artificial intelligence might never know it was being fed inaccurate information, leading to decisions that could drive up costs or even endanger lives.

A lack of data veracity can easily create a snowball effect of unintended consequences, and these implications stretch to all industries currently pursuing digital transformation. As human oversight shifts to higher levels of abstraction and intelligent machines handle ever-growing datasets, we must revisit the CIA paradigm of information security. Historically, the confidentiality and availability of information have received most of the attention. But the time has come to devote attention to the integrity of our information as well.

A Relentless Pursuit of the Truth

Image: Data Veracity and the Future of the Digital Economy - Tech Vision 2018Without checks in place to guarantee data integrity, securing and managing information is impossible. Investing in defensive measures alone can only take you so far, especially now that hackers have demonstrated that AIs are perfectly capable of assisting in security breaches. It’s only a matter of time before human minds will no longer be able to keep up with advanced network intrusion techniques based on artificial intelligence.

The security threats of the future will be as sophisticated as they are insidious. Instead of stealing data, hackers might slowly feed misinformation into your SAP systems over a long period of time. Even if such an attack is eventually discovered, you might be unable to determine when it began, and the timeline on your backup retention policy might make it impossible to revert to an untainted dataset.

Focusing on data veracity can prevent scenarios like these, but it will require a multifaceted approach. For starters, your organization will have to raise awareness for these issues at the appropriate levels of data governance. After all, you can’t target what you can’t see.

You can’t target what you can’t see

Additionally, you will need to build a strong digital identity foundation into your digital transformation. This goes beyond simply identifying people – you will need to be able to identify devices and processes as well. Doing so will allow you to determine which system supplied the data, which process created it and whether the data you received is what you expected it would be. Combining the separate realms of security operations and anomaly detection into one unified continuum will allow you to guarantee the integrity, provenance and context of your data, creating a robust framework for data veracity.

Leveraging Data Integrity to Unlock New Opportunities

Data veracity isn’t just about minimizing threats. It’s about establishing trust – and that trust may well prove to be your defining competitive advantage in tomorrow’s data-driven marketplace. Your ability to integrate truthfulness and accuracy into your data management processes will help build up your image as both a reliable business partner and a safe choice for consumers.

The greatest risk that a lack of data veracity poses is that businesses will not be able to fully realize the benefits of the digital economy. If the lives of consumers are negatively impacted by bad information, they will lose faith in the digital world. And if your brand is unable to determine which data is false and which is true, your clients will turn elsewhere for the products and services you provide.

But this risk also illuminates data veracity’s greatest opportunity. Demonstrating truthfulness in your entire end-to-end chain and communicating this via your customer journey and user experience will be a powerful differentiator. Safeguarding the integrity of your information and being transparent about this priority will help drive trust in ways that simply haven’t been done before. Instead of playing catch-up and admitting where things went wrong, data veracity will allow you to show users what it looks like when things go right.

Image: Data Veracity and the Future of the Digital Economy - Tech Vision 2018

The Timeline for Data Veracity Is Now

Throughout the world, in every industry, organizations are preparing themselves for the future. Digital transformation is on everybody’s agenda. Real-time decision-making is on the horizon, riding on the backs of AI and machine learning. If we are to put our trust in those decisions, we will first need to make sure our data is itself worthy of our trust.

 Are you taking a holistic approach to data management and digital identity?

On a fundamental level, organizations will have to ask themselves how they approach information governance. Are you taking a holistic approach to data management and digital identity? Are data veracity and cybersecurity intertwined with your business processes? Are they an integral part of your added value and your vision for the future? Or are these issues just another cost item on the backburner of your IT department?

How you answer these questions will determine your relevance and trustworthiness in tomorrow’s business environment, and therefore your ability to compete. So, whether your digital transformation is already underway or only just getting started, the time for data veracity is always now.

Do you want to experience what the Technology Vision 2018 trends can mean for your future business? Book an inspiring and meaningful workshop at Accenture’s NanoLab in Heerlen. Please contact Kelly Claessens for more info.