No doubt, there are a lot of problems that can be blamed on bad data. I suspect it would be fair to say that there's a good percentage of problems we don't even know about that can be blamed on bad data and a lack of data integration, quality and governance.
Could the bank foreclosure fiasco be one of them? I find that hard to believe.
Utopia, an enterprise data lifecycle management consultancy, posted this piece about why Bank of America froze foreclosures last week. The post quotes a Bank of America press release that states, "Worries have developed which suggest that faulty data may be being used to decide the fate of houses, and may be causing some people to be evicted without merit."
The blurb about the data issues has been republished in several locations, but my favorite is this version, because you can read it right below the announcement that says "Bank of America Corporation (NYSE:BAC) has paused foreclosures on houses after reports that employees may have submitted false documents in order to speed up the process."
Technically, I suppose it could be both ways: Employees submitted false documents that created faulty data. But one of these versions strikes me as owning up to a problem while another seems to invite pity: "Woe is us. We're the victim of bad data."
Data-and by extension, the IT departments that manage it-are an easy scapegoat these days. Do a search and take a look at the range of quandaries blamed on bad data. Here, let me help.
Bad data might be the most ubiquitous excuse since "the dog ate my homework." But while most of us would laugh at the idea of blaming the dog for missing homework, when someone blames the data, we all nod our heads in sympathy, because we all know how troublesome computers are. And then the buck gets passed to IT.
I'm not saying there isn't bad data-obviously there is. One widely quoted, but by now ancient (circa 2005), statistic from The Data Warehouse Institute blames data quality problems associated with customer contact data alone as costing U.S. businesses more than $600 billion a year in postage, printing and staff overhead.
And it's difficult to measure its real impact. In a March blog post, Bill Hewett of Kalido raised this question, sharing a story from a business leader who estimated 20 percent of his company's customer data to be "bad" at any point in time. The executive considered it a cost of doing business.
But when you have "robosigners" processing legal documents without even reading them and lawyers outsourcing legal contracts-well, that's not bad data. It's unfair to IT at the least, bad business at best and negligence that could lead to another national financial crisis at worst.