Technology at the service of transparency in organizations | by Ruben Ferreira Duarte | Jan, 2022


Nowadays, it is difficult for anyone to deny the importance of transparency in building relationships of trust, on the one hand between the State and citizens, on the other between companies and consumers, and, even more comprehensively, between any type of organization and people. Whatever the context, an organization that is transparent in its purposes and functioning can only gain in reputation, notoriety and recognition.

Although it is often a difficult value to quantify, transparency is not an abstract path. It is not a word that goes well in speeches, but that later cannot be achieved through concrete actions. In fact, if there is something that transparency is not, it is abstract. Based on a broader concept of accountability, transparency is reflected in its simplest and most pragmatic view, in accountability processes on the part of those who manage some type of organization, enabling all people to be compressed through evidence of form. how this same organization is managed.

It is important to be clear that transparency does not mean “policing”. It can’t, and shouldn’t, be a witch-hunt looking for the bug. Organizations are, as a rule, managed by those who are chosen or elected in a suitable manner for this purpose. It is essential to trust these legitimate processes, as they are also the guarantee of the sustainability of the functioning of society. However, this choice and legitimation does not mean that it is not important to be accountable for the decisions taken, and this is where transparency becomes so important.

The responsibility of running an organization is not an error-free exercise, quite the contrary. For a sustained discourse and analysis, it is no use embarking on demagogy and believing that managing an organization, whatever it may be, will be a perfect activity. Indeed, managing ultimately implies deciding. Sometimes well, sometimes less well. It is a normal process that only those who are responsible for managing something are subject to, preferentially basing decisions on strategies and evidence, rather than opinions.

Beyond the discussion around the concept of transparency, its relevance or implications, the feasibility of this rendering of accounts on the governance of an organization tends to be more objective. To be accountable for something, information is needed, or better said, data transformed into information. Data in sufficient quantity and scale to be able to have a complete vision of the organization, but also to be able to transform this volume of data into intelligible information that is easy for anyone to understand.

This is precisely where technology can be a valuable aid to transparency. The time for paper is over, I mean, it’s almost over, because we know very well that not all organizations have done their digital transformation. But despite this, it is only with the help of technology, its algorithms and automatisms that any organization will be able to collect, consolidate and organize the volume of data it has at its disposal. In turn, it is this work that allows the generation of information that allows anyone to know and understand the direction of the organization’s governance. Only with this information about governance is it possible not only to assess the path traveled so far, but also to allow people to participate in building the path to the future.

It is simple to understand at this point the importance of technology for transparency. It is not difficult to imagine some scenarios, where without this it would be almost impossible to understand everything that is happening in an organization, whether public or private. Depending on the perspectives, the evolution path of an organization towards more transparent management models using technology, can have several different stages.

There are no perfect solutions for all contexts. Depending on the model and context of each organization, this path can take several different directions, all equally valid. To facilitate the mapping and understanding of possible steps that may underlie the challenge of transparency in an organization, we can refer to five different steps.

1. Identify and pool data sources

The first step of any transparency model must ensure the identification, collection and consolidation of all data sources that could be used to share information. Often, for a more structured reading of the organization’s governance, it is necessary to resort to different sets of data. This data collection ecosystem should be mapped and where necessary the relationship between different data sources optimized.

As far as possible, this should be an ever-evolving ecosystem. The data sources that may arise are many and should reflect the organization’s governance in various dimensions, such as: budget, human resources, business, etc .

2. Publicly share open data

Once the data sources have been identified and organized, it is essential to ensure that they are shared publicly. Although one of the essential steps for a transparency model is to create simple readings using this data as a source, for an effective transparency it is absolutely important to ensure that whoever wants to can consult the original sources of open data and from that also draw their own conclusions.

On this topic, it is also important to clarify the concept of open data. Open data is understood to mean any source of unprocessed data without any type of filtering. These open data are usually made available through spreadsheet files (.xls, .ods, etc . ).

3. Simplify information and its reading

Based on the open datasets collected and consolidated in the previous steps, the next step is perhaps one of the most relevant. There is no transparency without information that can be understood by anyone and everyone. The complexity of information is the enemy of good understanding, which, in turn, can lead to unfounded mistrust.

Nobody trusts something they don’t understand. For this reason, it is preponderant, even though you may have a considerable volume of data available, to know how to structure the information in several reading layers, choosing along the way the essential information on each of the topics, but always making the original sources of information available. open data.

4. Collect and respond to contributions and queries

Fluid and agile communication between the organization and its people is another essential pillar of any model for transparency. It is not enough to provide the data and the information must be available to clarify who consults all this information.

It is natural that in the interpretation of the information all kinds of doubts arise. Being available to clarify these interpretations can mean avoiding misunderstandings or the understanding of half words, which at the end of the day, can be the embryo to generate suspicion without any need.

5. Keep data and information up to date

Last but not least, for any organization to effectively base its action on transparency, this must be a recurring dynamic. It is not enough to appear transparent, it is necessary to be it effectively. This means that concerns about the availability of open data and intelligible information must be permanent, ensuring that information is always updated at all times.

Transparency is a path that is followed on a daily basis and persistently. It is not an isolated event that eternally legitimizes any management action. Getting started is critical, but continuing down the path is even more important.

As it is also a growth path for any organization, knowing the current evolution point will always be the first step. It may not be an easy analysis. As a rule, talking about transparency always raises some fears of finding things that might not be working so well in the organization. However, it is important to always remember that this is not a “witch hunt”, but a sincere and true contribution to building better and more relevant organizations.

As far as possible, the answer to this question “How is your organization’s transparency?” it must involve all departments of the organization in a transversal dynamic. Trying to find and define the indicators that can make a possible answer tangible. For a start, it can also be helpful to go through the various stages of the “Model for Transparency through Technology” and assess where the execution of each of those objectives is.

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