Information Quality in 2008…

So yet another year draws to a close. Usually around this time of year I try to take a few hours to review how things went, what worked and what still needs to be worked on in the coming year. In most cases that is very personal appraisal of whether I had a ‘quality’ year – did I meet or exceed my own expectations of myself (and I’m a bugger for trying to achieve too much too quickly).

Vincent McBurney’s Blog Carnival of Data Quality has invited submissions on the theme “Happy New Year”, so I thought I’d take a look back over 2007 and see what emerging trends or movements might lead to a Happy New Year for Information Quality people in 2008.

Hitting Mainstream
In 2007 Information Quality issues began to hit the mainstream. It isn’t quite there yet but 2007 saw the introduction of taught Master’s degree programmes in Information Quality in the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and there have been similar developments mooted in at least one European University. If educators think they can run viable courses that will make money then we are moving out of the niche towards being seen asa a mainstream discipline of importance to business.

The IAIDQ’s IDQ Conference in Las Vegas was a significant success, with numbers up on 2006 and a wider mix of attendees. I did an unofficial straw poll of people at that conference and the consensus from the delegates and other speakers was that there were more ‘Business’ people at the conference than previous Information Quality conferences they’d attended, a trend that has been growing in recent years. The same was true at the European Data Management and Information Quality Conference(s) in London in November. Numbers were up on previous years. There were more ‘Business’ people in the mix, up even on last year. – this of course is all based on my unofficial straw poll and could be wrong.

The fact that news stories abounded in 2007 about poor quality information and the initial short sharp shock of Compliance and SOx etc. has started to give rise to questions of how to make Compliance a value-adding function (hint – It’s the INFORMATION people) may help, but the influence of bloggers such as Vincent, and the adoption of blogs as communications tools by vendors and by Professional Associations such as the IAIDQ is probably as big if not more of an influence IMHO.

Also, and I’m not sure if this is a valid benchmark, I’ve started turning down offers to present at conferences and write articles for people on IQ issues. because a) I’m too busy with my day job and with the IAIDQ (oh yeah… and with my family) and b)there are more opportunities arising than I’d ever have time to take on.

Unfortunately, much of the ‘mainstream’ coverage of Information Quality issues either views it either as a ‘technology issue’ (most of my articles in Irish trade magazines are stuck in the ‘Technology’ section) or fails to engage with the Information Quality aspects of the story fully. The objective of is to try to highlight the Information Quality aspects of things that get into the media.

What would make 2008 a Happy Year for me would be to have more people contributing to IQ Trainwrecks but also to have some happy path stories to tell and also for there to be better analysis of these issues in the media.

Community Building
There is a strong sense of ‘community’ building amongst many of the IQ practitioners I speak with. That has been one of the key goals of the IAIDQ in 2007 – to try and get that sense of Community triggered to link like-minded-people and help them learn from each other. This has started to come together. However it isn’t happening as quickly as I’d like, because I have a shopping list of things I want yesterday!

What would make 2008 a happy new year for me would be for us to maintain the momentum we’ve developed in connecting the Community of Information/Data Quality professionals and researchers. Within the IAIDQ I’d like us to get better at building those connections (we’ve become good… we need to keep improving).

I’d like to see more people making contact via blogs like Vincent’s or mine or through other social networking facilities so we can build the Community of Like Minded people all focussing on the importance of Information Quality and sharing skills, tips, tools, tricks and know how about how to make it better. I’d be really happy at the end of 2008 a few more people make the transition from thinking they are the ‘lonely voice’ in their organisation to realising they are part of a very large choir that is singing an important tune.

Role Models for Success
2007 saw a few role models for success in Information Quality execution emerging. All of these had similar stories and similar elements that made up their winning plan. It made a change from previous years when people seemed afraid to share – perhaps because it is so sensitive a subject (for example admitting you have an IQ problem could amount to self-incrimination in some industries)? In the absence of these sort of ‘role models’ it is difficult to sell the message of data quality as it can come across as theoretical.

I’d be very happy at the end of 2008 if we had a few more role models of successful application of principles and tools – not presented by vendors (no offence to vendors) but emerging from within the organisations themselves. I’d be very happy if we had some of these success stories analysed to highlight the common Key Success Factors that they share.

Break down barriers
2007 saw a lot of bridges being built within the Information Quality Community. 2006 ended with a veritable bloodbath of mergers and acquisitions amongst software vendors. 2007 had a development of networks and mutual support between the IAIDQ (as the leading professional organisation for IQ/DQ professionals) and MIT’s IQ Programme. In many Businesses the barriers that have prevented the IQ agenda from being pursued are also being overcome for a variety of reasons.

2008 should be the year to capitalise on this as we near a signicificant tipping point. I’d like to see 2008 being the year were organisations realise that they need to push past the politics of Information Quality to actually tackle the root causes. Tom Redman is right – the politics of this stuff can be brutal because to solve the problems you need to change thinking and remould governance all of which is a dangerous threat to traditional power bases. The traditional divide between “Business” and “IT” is increasingly anachronistic, particularly when we are dealing with information/data within systems. If we can make that conceptual leap in 2008 to the point were everyone is inside the same tent peeing out… that would be a good year.

For most of my professional life I’ve been the crazy man in the corner telling everyone there was an elephant in the room that no-one else seemed able to see. It was a challenge to get the issues taken seriously. Even now I have one or two managers I deal with who still don’t get it. However most others I deal with do get it. They just need to be told what they have. 2007 seems to be the year that the lights started to go on about the importance of the Information Asset. Up to now, people spoke about it but didn’t ‘feel’ it… but now I don’t have trouble getting my Dept Head to think in terms of root causes, information flows etc.

2008 is the year of Respect for the IQ Practitioner…. A Happy New Year for me would be to finish 2008 with appropriate credibility and respect for the profession. Having role models to point to will help, but also having certification and accreditation so people can define their skillsets as ‘Information Quality’ skill sets (and so chancers and snake-oil peddlers can be weeded out).

2007 saw discussion of Information Quality start to hit the mainstream and the level of interest in the field is growing significantly. For 2008 to be a Happy New Year we need to build on this, develop our Community of practitioners and researchers and then work to break down barriers within our organisations that are preventing the resolution of problems with information quality. If, as a community of Information/Data Quality people we can achieve that (and the IAIDQ is dedicated to that mission) and in doing so raise our standards and achieve serious credibility as a key management function in organisations and as a professional discipline then 2008 will have been a very Happy New Year.

2008 already has its first Information Quality problem though…. looks like we’ve got a bit of work to do to make it a Happy New Year.

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