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Has Data Quality Lost the Plot?

Have some Data Quality practitioners lost the plot?  When recently reading an article by a DQ practitioner I was tempted to think so.

Many of the points being made in the article were valid and sensible and then it read, “Each organization must align their processes, programs, and people to accomplish the unified goal that they expect from MDM.”

This is the point where I realized that something was seriously wrong. What this statement is saying is, “You have amassed all of this master data and you must now make sure that you totally organise your whole business around feeding and maintaining it.”

It’s a bit like all of the bees in a hive being expected to be totally dedicated to feeding and protecting the queen bee; to be an unquestioning and dedicated collective. Data is everything! Data must be served!

Well, and this may shock some people, data is not everything!

Data Quality Rule #1: “Data in any enterprise only exists to support the Functions of that enterprise”.

Data Quality Rule #2: “There are no exceptions to Rule #1.  Any data in an enterprise that does not support its Functions should be removed”.

Do all data practitioners think that data drives the organisation?  Is this a widespread point of view?  If so, businesses everywhere are in real trouble.  This may not be quite as bad as the lunatics running the asylum but it’s getting pretty close!

The statement in the article ought to have read something like:

“Each organization must ensure that all of the data held and used in the organisation (Master Data, Transactional Data and Reference/Domain Data) fully supports the Business Functions of that organisation.  It must also ensure that the objectives of all Processes and Programs are totally aligned with the objectives of the Functions.”

For clarity, a Business Function is NOT a business department!  Business functions are the core activities of any enterprise.  Sorry to have to put this in, but it is amazing how many analysts and managers get this wrong.

How would you score this post from 0 to 10?  If it is not a 10, what would it take to make it so?


2 Responses to “Has Data Quality Lost the Plot?”

  1. Richard Ordowich August 12, 2010 1:04 am #

    I don’t know the article that you are referring to but commenting on a sentence taken out of context is what the media is supposed to do. It gets people fired! But since the door has been opened let me apply this same technique. “Each organization must align their processes, programs, and people to accomplish the unified goal that they expect from MDM.”

    Perhaps the writer meant that in order to support and get the benefits from MDM the processes, programs and people needed to be aligned. The words “expect from MDM” to me is the key phrase that leads me to this hypothesis. This is both wise and necessary advice. That said, if they were implementing MDM one would hope they were doing it to improve their business functions and therefore the changes to the business functions required to accommodate MDM are certainly justified.

    And data does not only exist to support the functions in the organization. If that were the case then we could eliminate the people out of the equation and organizations would be run by machines. Data exists to also support the “people”. Organizations consist of people and they need data.

    • John Owens August 12, 2010 3:46 pm #

      Thanks Richard

      Your interpretation could well be correct. Perhaps this is what the writer meant. However, we cannot be sure and he could quite well have meant what I interpreted. At best the statement is ambiguous, at worst entirely misguided.

      Your statement on data being there to support people is not quite right. People do need data but only what is needed in order to carry out specific functions. So, if we know what data is required for the functions, we know what data is required by people.

      Thanks for your comment.


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