The evolution of Information Quality

I was googling today (or doing some googlage) for blogs that deal with Information and Data Quality topics. Needless to say yours truly did appear reasonably highly the search results. One post that I came across that really made me think a bit was this one from Andrew Brooks, currently a Senior Consultant with Cap Gemini in the UK.

In his post he asks if we are at a ‘tipping point’ for Information Quality where

organisations are starting to move from ‘unconscious incompetence’ to ’conscious incompetence’ and see the need to spend money in this area (hence the growing number of vendors and consultancies) which are feeding off the back of this.

He mentions that he gets calls from recruiters looking for Data Quality Management roles to be filled and wonders when we will reach the stage of ‘Concious Competence’.

My personal feeling is that we are at a very large tipping point. Those organisations that truly make the leap will gain significant advantage over those that don’t. Those that make the leap half-heartedly by putting a few job titles and tools in the mix with no commitment or plan will limp along, but the pressure of competing with lean and efficient opposition (those who jump in wholeheartedly) will squeeze on these organisations. Those that don’t leap at all will fall foul of Darwinian evolution in the business context.

The danger that we face at this juncture is that when the ship is sinking any bandwagon looks like a lifeboat. The risk that we face is that we will not have learned the lessons of the CRM adoption age when organisations bought ‘CRM’ (ie software) but didn’t realise the nature of the process and culture changes that were required to successfully improve the management of Customer Relationships. Tools and job titles do not a success make.

The same was true of Quality management in manufacturing. As Joseph Juran said:

“They thought they could make the right speeches, establish broad goals, and leave everything else to subordinates… They didn’t realize that fixing quality meant fixing whole companies, a task that cannot be delegated.”

So, what can be done?

The International Association for Information and Data Quality was founded in 2004 by Tom Redman and Larry English (both referenced in Mr Brook’s article) to promote and develop best practices and professionalism in the field of Information and Data Quality.

As a vendor neutral organisation part of the Association’s mission is to cut through the hype and sales pitches to nail down, clarify and refine the core fundamental principles of Information Quality Management and to support Information/Data Quality professionals (I use the terms interchangeably, some people don’t…) in developing and certifying their skills so that (for example) the recruiter looking for a skilled Data Quality Manager has some form of indicator as to the quality of the resource being evaluated.

The emergence of such an organisations and the work that is being done to develop formal vendor independent certification and accreditation evidences the emergence of the ‘early adopters’ of the ‘Concious committment’ that Mr. Brooks writes about. As an Information Quality professional I am concious that there is a lot of snake-oil swilling around the market, but also a lot of gems of wisdom. I am committed to developing my profession and developing the professional standards of my profession (vocation might be another word!).

Having a rallying point where interested parties can share and develop sound practices and techniques will possibly accelerate the mainstreaming of the Concious Committment… IQ/DQ professionals (and researchers… must’t forget our colleagues in academia) need no longer be isolated or reinvent the wheel on their own.

Let me know what you think….

3 thoughts on “The evolution of Information Quality”

  1. Wise words from Andrew who I know very well indeed, he has many years of DQ battle-scars so talks from experience.

    And yes, the volume of queries I receive from agencies quizzing me for DQ contacts has increased noticeably this year in particular so perhaps we are on the brink.

    I still think though that we are some way from creating DQ roles that can actually enforce change, in my experience most organisations still pay lip-service to DQ until a major business initiative flounders due to DQ.

    You will increasingly see the archetypal ‘name and address’ cleansing type DQ projects in many organisations nowadays but its still rare to see a DQ officer who has real ‘clout’.

    I think one area the DQ industry has to improve is in the ability to demonstrate business impact from DQ.

    Far too many consultants take a lofty view of the failings of the business community to address DQ. The reason the business ‘doesnt get it’ is often because they can’t visualise what ‘it’ actually is. Many of the business cases for DQ improvement are not really credible from a business perspective.

    For example trying to convince an organisation that calculating customer lifetime value as a marker for improving DQ is pointless in todays high-churn marketplace yet it features prominently in several DQ texts.

    There are much more powerful and simpler ways to demonstrate the need for DQ in a business context and I think as the DQ industry merges DQ strategies with other ongoing corporate initiatives we will see a much wider take-up.

  2. Dylan

    thanks for your comments. I agree with you that to push IQ/DQ ‘over the top’ in industry today we need to stop piddling around with it as a ‘silo’ activity and link it directly to core competencies in business and embed it within priority corporate initiatives.

    The other big thing that needs to happen is that we need to stop thinking and talking about Information Quality as a ‘technology’ issue and talk about it in real business terms.

    These are both themes that I’ve written about in the IAIDQ Quarterly newsletter in the past few years (see for details)

  3. Raghavendra Ganiga

    This is really a good article, I completely agree with this. Most of the companies think that Data quality means using any available Data Cleansing tool to fix customer name and address, in fact Data quality is more than that. Hope everyone realize the importance of DQ soon. I am sure IAIDQ will play an important role here.

    // Raghavendra Ganiga

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