Data Quality Goes to Washington: A Path to Fix the Fiscal Cliff

    Although I’m passionate about politics, I seldom mention it because, well, this is an IT blog. And I think one thing we can all agree on is it’s more fun to talk about IT issues than political issues, if for no other reason than IT can actually solve some of its problems.

    But while editing my interview with Richard Daley, Pentaho’s chief strategy officer, I couldn’t help but think our politicians could learn a lot from data quality professionals.

    We were talking specifically about how internal processes can support data quality, which is a fancy way of saying what can you do on a regular basis to stop bad data. Daley pointed out that for a long time, IT and the business didn’t really communicate about what was going on.

    When the business came to IT, IT would often throw obstacles up — legitimate and otherwise — that resulted in long delays. So the business unit turned to SaaS, which was quicker, and effectively outsource some of IT’s work.

    And essentially, everyone stood in their rightness, being right, while the data grew increasingly worse.

    Sound familiar?

    In the past year or so, organizations reached a pain point that has forced them to sit down with IT to negotiate for better data quality.

    “They’re coming together on both sides because now everybody has a really big mess,” Daley said.

    He was talking about data quality, but it immediately reminded me of the fiscal cliff fiasco.

    But we shouldn’t be too quick to feel superior. Politics is just a reflection of our own natures, and even in data quality issues, we’re not so different than Congress. Everybody tends to think his or her system is the most important, Daley said. That’s what makes data quality and data governance so difficult: It’s not a one-time fix.

    It takes on-going effort and collaboration; disciplines that seem in short supply these days both in our capital and our work places.

    “You have to have some type of an owner that’s going, ‘I’m going to play the traffic cop here and make sure that everybody gets what they want,’ and then you need to know which will end in the event of a conflict and which system will trump the other one,” he said. “Everybody is going to say their system is the most important, but I can promise you if you’re accounting, anything you invoice is most important, so that should win in case of a conflict there, whereas in customer and contact data, that’s more of a sales and marketing function. They own the customer.”

    That’s why it’s so critical that data management in general become an enterprise-wide conversation, and data quality issues in particular involve a leader from each stakeholder.

    And here we come to data quality’s lesson for IT, business users and, in my opinion, our nation’s leaders:

    “If everybody comes together and understands why one component is important to the whole, then they’re more likely to play nice. If they only see it from their end, then they’re only going to do what’s most convenient for themselves,” Daley said.

    “Hell, they still might do that anyway. At least you can try.”

    Loraine Lawson
    Loraine Lawson
    Loraine Lawson is a freelance writer specializing in technology and business issues, including integration, health care IT, cloud and Big Data.

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