New Glass, Old Wine: In Pursuit of Data with Integrity

BHAG. The impactful four letters from the book, Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras. The acronym, which stands for Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals, is the foundation of Dattel and encapsulated in our daily war cry, “I am Data Integrity”.

On Friday, 24th June 2016; people in the United Kingdom woke up to the surprise of Brexit. No less surprised were the so-called experts, politicians and investors. Opinion polls were right in predicting that the Brexit Referendum would come in close, but they had gotten the majority side wrong – which went to the “Leave” EU vote. In fact, certain UK citizens voiced their “Bregret” in voting “Leave” as a protest vote — believing in initial poll results and bookie odds showing the majority would choose to “Remain”. Even worse off were fund managers and foreign exchange traders who placed their bets on said erroneous information, leading many stakeholders to question the validity of such polls and methodology of data-gathering which obviously missed out crucial segments of the population.

As a wise sage once commented on the fickleness of human behaviour — “There is nothing new under the sun”. Similar comedy of errors in data collection have been repeated in opinion polls versus actual results in USA’s 2012 presidential election, Turkey’s 2014 presidential election, Greek’s 2015 bailout referendum, and more.

At Dattel, we seeded an idea to bring together people with ‘integrity’ and deliver ‘data with integrity’. Our philosophy from the start has been to embrace ‘integrity’ as a value that drives our actions and our performance, and reflects in the way we work, in the way we interact with each other and in our commitment to improve the lives of people and organisations alike. To put it simply, ‘integrity’ is about always doing the right thing, even when no one is looking. This is especially relevant in today’s world of self-conscious, Instagram-following, selfie-loving society.

Our pursuit of this philosophy is built on 3Ps — People, Process and Platform.

People: Our first task was giving birth to a new generation of Field Data Associates (FDAs) through our dedicated intelligence arm, Dattel, in an occupation that was rarely given a second glance by the traditional stakeholders in the data-collection industry. We embraced and demonstrated a set of values, linking FDAs to their modus operandi at work, their KPIs and performance matrix. All of which is then reflected in a lucrative remuneration scheme, an introduction of employee benefits and a rewarding career path. Our main intention from the very beginning was to address the fundamentals of the “core” workforce in the data collection industry, an industry that pays lip service to the idea of “data quality” and yet never bothers to correct the wrongs that lie at the “core” — the low payment rates, the cyclical nature of data collection that never ensured a consistent monthly payout, the laborious and difficult job of collecting and harnessing good data from respondents, just to mention a few. We believed from the outset that such a stance will pay full dividend by paying it forward, thus creating a virtuous cycle. Turning what was a repetitive, low-paying, part-time job to a dynamic, lucrative, progressive and full-time career.

Process: “Zero tolerance” policy on falsification is a mantra sold by the data collection industry to unsuspecting clients. Or at least, clients whom have long accepted the industry norm, devoid of a better alternative. Outputs hidden behind perception-shaping labels and statistical models or analytics that seek to hide the “rubbish” that lie within. At Dattel, we decided to rip apart the standard playbook. Rewriting the rules of engagement, eliminating inefficiencies, and investing in training and skills development bolstered and shared performance analytics to encourage self-improvement and, more importantly, empowered the FDAs to be in control of their destiny.  Eighteen months down the road, our subsidiary Dattel has been rewarded with a data collection workforce that exceeds industry standards across all measures. Velocity aka Speed, Veracity aka Quality, Value aka Cost, Coverage and Depth – all of which is cloaked in our Openness aka Transparency. A cloak which no traditional data collection industry player offers at the moment.

Platform: Upholding the two earlier Ps is our commitment to technological innovations and breakthroughs through 100 Doors, the specialised frontier technology division of Dattel. When the focus on “core” competency was the way forward, Dattel had set out early on to invest heavily in building up our own information system, software and apps development team. Why did we do so? Simply because what was available in the market just wasn’t good enough. And most outsourcing firms and platform development contractors would have never been able to imbue “integrity” at the core, merely undertaking the assignment as a job to finish as soon as possible with the least cost involved. We believed early on that investment in our in-house proprietary platforms would further enhance the virtuous cycle that was kick-started by our care for the People and our painstaking attention to Process.

As our 3Ps foundation takes hold, Dattel has now undertaken additional war cries: “We Power Big Data” and “Better Data, Better Lives”, subjects which I hope to elaborate more in the future. Dattel’s quest to be a game changer, championing integrity and kaizen — the Japanese business philosophy of continuous improvement of working practices, personal efficiency — continues unabated.

If we look at the world in the context of the gazillion bytes of information that is available to us, we will find organisations and even individuals trying to make sense of the crazy data pushed by the worldwide web and by various other print and electronic channels and platforms. Businesses churn out equally large amounts of data and many of them go on a ‘data’ hunting exercise, believing that what they can help to provide a basis for new insights, intelligent decisions and even innovation. But, often, they find themselves drowned in data that speaks in volumes but with questionable evidence and integrity.

In short, our cornerstone BHAG of data with integrity is not just good marketing but also the backbone of any solid business. Integrity is also a value that makes our employees the pulse of their communities, including our organisation. E-mail us at if you want be part of our value-driven culture and organisation as well as understand how we can help you seek the benefit and advantages of Data with Integrity.