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Data Quality: Objective or Subjective?

In a recent discussion in a blog on Data Quality one of the commentators suggested that one could not have an objective view about Data Quality because data was an not an object. I had to respond to this obviously confused view of the term ‘objective’.

Looking at Data Quality objectively in no way implies that one is suggesting that data is a physical object. An ‘Objective View’ is an opinion not influenced by personal feelings, interpretations, or prejudice; rather an unbiased opinion based on facts. A ‘Subjective View’ is, obviously, the opposite of this.

The real problem is that, without reference to the purpose of the data (i.e. the Business Functions it is meant to support), all opinions on its quality are, necessarily, subjective, i.e. placing excessive emphasis on one’s own moods, attitudes, predjudices, opinions, etc., or as one dictionary definition puts it, “unduly egocentric.”

Because so many (nearly all) discussions on Data Quality are carried out in the absence of Business Functions, nearly all data quality opinions are subjective. Quality, in any field, can never be achieved if its definition is expressed in subjective terms. Data quality, expressed without the context of Business Functions, will always be subjective and, consequently, can never be attained.

However, instead of identifying and accepting this simple and empowering fact and simplying and solidifying Data Quality definitions, many (far too many) practitioners and commentators try to portray Data Quality as such a complex and esoteric subject that it cannot be defined in a way that can be understood by mere mortals.

Complex arguments about Data Quality are merely that – complex arguments.  In the world of quality (in any field) good definitions always converge to the simple, bad definitions and misconceptions always diverge to the complex.

The fact is Data Quality is essentially simple – once you view and define it in the context of Functions.

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