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Sunday, 2 February 2014

Share the love... of Data Quality

A distributed approach to Data Quality may result in better data outcomes

A recent news article on Information-Management.com suggested a link between inaccurate data and “lack of a centralized approach.”

But I'm not sure that "lack of centralization" is the underlying issue here; I'd suggest the challenge is generally more down to "lack of a structured approach", and as I covered in my blog post “To Centralise or not to Centralise, that is the Question”, there are organizational cultures that don’t respond well (or won’t work at all) to a centralized approach to data governance.

When you then extend this to the more operational delivery processes of Data Quality Management, I'd go so far as to suggest that a distributed and end-user oriented approach to managing data quality is actually desirable, for several reasons:
  • Many organisations just haven’t given data quality due consideration, and the impacts can be significant, but often hidden.
  • Empowering users to thinks about and act upon data challenges can become a catalyst for a more structured, enterprise wide approach.
  • By managing data quality issues locally, knowledge and expertise is maintained as close to point-of-use as possible.
  • In environments where funding is hard to come by or where there isn’t appetite to establish critical mass for data quality activity, progress can still be made and value can still be delivered

I also observe two trends in business, that have been consistent in the twenty-plus years that I've been working, which are contributing to make a centralised delivery of data outcomes ever-more difficult:

1) Human activity has become more and more complex. We’re living in a mobile, connected, graphical, multi-tasking, object-oriented, cloud-serviced world, and the rate at which we’re collecting data is showing no sign of abatement. It may well be that our data just isn't "controllable" in the classic sense any more, and that what's really needed is mindfulness. (I examined this in my post "OpeningPandora's Box" )

2) Left to their own devices, business systems and processes will tend to decay towards a chaotic state over time, and it is management's role to keep injecting focus and energy into the organisation. If this effort can be spread broadly across the organisation, then there is an overall cultural change towards better data. (I covered aspects of this in my post "Business Entropy - Bringing Order to the Chaos")

Add the long-standing preoccupation that management consultants have with mapping "Business Process" rather than mapping "Business Data" and you end up in the situation that data does not get nearly enough attention. (And once attention IS payed, then the skills and capabilities to do something about it are often lacking). 

Change the culture, change the result - that doesn't require centralisation to make it happen. 

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