The Data Quality Perspective

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Click to learn more about Danette McGilvray.

Data quality is a perspective. It is something you see and not something you just turn off like a light when you go home for the day.

For instance, do you realize that ensuring accurate, trustworthy election results is all about data quality? Did you know that moving from paper to electronic health records does not guarantee those records are correct? Have you ever tried to order something online, only to find that the supposedly-available colors and sizes are not in stock? These are data quality issues. Data professionals should be primed to have a data quality viewpoint, but the average person doesn’t notice the data quality component in these common issues until they’ve been shown that perspective.

I often have the opportunity in casual conversations to introduce people to the basic ideas of data quality. I’ve shown them how data quality shows up in many aspects of their daily lives. It’s not unusual for the same people to tell me months later that they see data quality (or the lack thereof) everywhere they look. They can’t turn it off. They see how data is a component of everything they’re doing, in a way they had never noticed before.

Some people, however, lack this perspective. They are unable to see that many times the issues they face are data quality issues. Because an organization often lacks a framework with which to grasp and address them, these data quality problems can be perplexing. For example, a client had been having some problems. On their own, they finally determined that it was a data quality problem. After some quick research they were surprised to find a whole profession, industry, and body of knowledge dedicated to this subject. It was a big “A-ha” moment for them when they were able to name the problem “data quality” because it allowed them to start tackling the problem appropriately.

Whether you’re a business manager, a data professional or an executive, you need to be able to see the data quality perspective as it impacts your organization. Once you realize that data quality is the issue, it’s time to put the data quality professionals (internal or external) to work. At a minimum, educate yourself and colleagues on what data quality entails and how it affects you and/or your company.

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