Unmasking the 'Franken-report': Why Inadequate Data Skills Threaten Organisational Integrity

Lacking data skills produce 'Franken-reports', leading to poor business decisions and jeopardising organisational integrity.

Unmasking the 'Franken-report'

Accurately interpreting and using data is essential for organisational success in a world dominated by data. However, when this critical task is left to those lacking the necessary skills, what emerges is often a distortion of what the data should represent. Dubbed ‘Franken-reports’, these documents are a result of combining ill-fitting data sets, leading to dangerous misrepresentations that can cause serious business miscalculations.  

Much like Mary Shelley’s infamous creature, a ‘Franken-report’ is built from disparate parts, stitched together without proper methodology or understanding. Its creators may have the best intentions but lack the essential skills to create a coherent and accurate representation of the data. Instead of providing clarity, a ‘Franken-report’ confuses, misleads, and can guide organisations down misinformed paths. 

Historical real-life examples that illustrate the organisational perils of misinterpreting or mishandling data

TSB Banking IT Crisis

TSB, a UK bank, attempted to migrate its computer systems in 2018 – 1.9 million customers were locked out of their accounts; customers were mistakenly credited money; some could even view other customers’ account details. The fiasco stemmed from poor data migration planning and execution, impacting the bank’s reputation.

The UK Government’s Track and Trace App

From 2020-2021, the UK’s initial version of the COVID-19 Track and Trace app had multiple issues. The most notable being a data error in October 2020, where nearly 16,000 positive cases went unreported due to a simple Excel error. The outdated file format couldn’t handle the large number of cases, leading to under-reporting and delayed tracing.

J.C. Penney’s Failed Business Strategy

In 2011, J.C. Penney hired a new CEO to revitalise the brand. They had data suggesting customers were tired of constant sales and would prefer transparent pricing, thus introducing "everyday low prices." The real-world application of this data-driven insight didn’t match customer expectations and sales plummeted by nearly 30% in a year.

Target’s Expansion into Canada

In 2013, the US retail giant Target made a massive push into Canada, opening 100+ stores. They pulled out two years later, accumulating billions in losses. The data systems set up for distribution were unreliable, leading to massive supply chain issues, barren shelves, inaccurate inventory, dissatisfied customers and significant operational inefficiencies.

While the above examples capture the essence of ‘Franken-reports’, the recent data breach involving the Northern Ireland police also tells a cautionary tale of a workforce with deficient data skills. A lack of data skills can result in data leaks or breaches which have the potential to harm just as much as inaccurate reports. The Northern Ireland police data breach isn’t an isolated incident; it’s a warning siren highlighting the dangers of inadequately handled or misrepresented data. This incident serves as a reminder that data-driven clarity is crucial to any organisation’s operations.  


Corndel’s Data Report 2023 reveals the scale of the data skills gap, with 90% of employees recognising a skills gap in their organisations and 82% unfamiliar with leveraging Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools. This deprived skills landscape exacerbates the likelihood of ‘Franken-reports’ emerging across all industries and business areas. While the advancement of AI offers enormous potential, it also raises the stakes, increasing the possibility of ‘garbage in, garbage out’. If the input data is flawed, AI will churn out results based on these inaccuracies, further magnifying the distortion.

Dr Joe Watkins, a seasoned data expert at Corndel, provides invaluable insight. “When you encounter a ‘Franken-report’, it’s usually a product of someone who may know what they want – a pie chart here, a table there – but doesn’t grasp the nuances and technicalities of data,” he explains. Watkins notes the frequent assumption among leaders that any data analysis is better than none, without stopping to question the quality or validity of the data itself.  

Delving deeper into the consequences 'Franken-reports' can jeopardise individual decisions and the foundation upon which organisations operate.

Consequence 1: Financial impacts

  • Poor investments: Businesses might invest heavily based on misleading data. This could mean sinking money into non-performing assets or ventures, expecting returns that will never materialise.
  • Budgetary chaos: Allocations based on ‘Franken-reports’ can lead to underfunded departments or funds being squandered where they’re least needed.

Consequence 2: Strategic failures

  • Misaligned priorities: A strategy built on flawed data may focus on the wrong areas, neglecting genuine opportunities and misinterpreting threats.
  • Ineffective marketing: Misreading market data can result in targeting the wrong audience, pricing products and services inappropriately, or misallocating the marketing budget.

Consequence 3: Operational inefficiencies

  • Faulty supply chain decisions: Incorrect inventory data might lead to overstocking or stockouts, causing operational hiccups and customer dissatisfaction. 
  • Hiring imbalances: Misinterpreting workforce data can lead to over-hiring, under-hiring, or misplaced roles, leading to increased costs and decreased productivity. 

Consequence 4: Reputational risks

  • Loss of stakeholder trust: When stakeholders, from investors to partners, realise they’ve been presented with distorted data, trust erodes. Restoring this trust is often an arduous task. 
  • Customer mistrust: Customers depend on businesses to provide accurate information about products and services. If they feel misled, brand loyalty can quickly dissipate. 

Consequence 6: Stunted innovation

  • Misguided R&D: Research and development driven by faulty data can lead to products that don’t meet market needs or are technically flawed. 
  • Opportunity costs: While resources are wasted on misguided ventures, genuine innovative opportunities might be overlooked. 

Consequence 7: Organisational morale and culture

  • Decreased employee confidence: A staff constantly guided by inaccurate reports will lose confidence in leadership. This can lead to reduced motivation and productivity. 
  • Culture of inaccuracy: Continued reliance on ‘Franken-reports’ might inadvertently foster a culture where data integrity isn’t prioritised, leading to a vicious cycle of misrepresentation. 

Rigorous data skills will prevent 'Franken-reports'

In the words of Dr Joe Watkins, “The worst-case scenario is a leader so keen to get a result that they ignore how good or bad the data is.” But, as evidenced, the implications of ‘Franken-reports’ go far beyond a single erroneous decision. They can cascade through an organisation, eroding its financial health, tarnishing its reputation, and stymying its potential for growth and innovation. 

This perspective is chilling when you consider Watkins’ mention of the industry adage: 80% of data work is about gathering and preparing data, while analysis is the relatively minor conclusion. It’s the rigorous groundwork that prevents a report from morphing into a ‘Franken-report’.  

Strategic skills development for employees, managers, and leaders

But there’s hope. With strategic skills development, employees, managers, and leaders can be empowered to prevent these disastrous creations from seeing the light of day. Leaders must have foundational data understanding to steer their teams correctly. “They should foster a robust framework, ensuring data quality and consistency,” Watkins advises. Blindly chasing results or forecasts without considering data quality can be catastrophic. Leaders must be adept enough to discern a ‘Franken-report’ from a genuine one.  

In today's rapidly changing world of work, organisations cannot afford to create or act on 'Franken-reports'. The stakes are simply too high. Organisations must invest in skills development training and tools that equip their teams to handle data adeptly. They must ensure their teams, especially their leaders and managers, understand the critical importance of data integrity. Because in the data age, 'Franken-reports' are not just mistakes; they're ticking time bombs that can jeopardise an entire organisation's future.  

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