I have been reading with interest the current debates on who controls data quality – the IT group or the business group. Looks like the consenus is that both own a piece of it. Makes sense really.
From my experience working with our own internal data quality initiaves, the ones that fail had people in charge who didn’t listen to both sides. Spend all the money on a fancy interface, but don’t understand the data needed underneath and you have a Porsche body with a Focus engine! Likewise though, if you get all the data in the system, but make the interface too difficult for business users then nobody will use it.
Being from more of the IT side of things I understand the frustration they feel about users. If nobody was allowed to write anything into the system it would be perfect! Users can’t be trusted. It’s true, to an extent. The IT involvement is needed to help balance the business users need for information and the human nature of shortcuts and malice!
An interface that can be designed to be both easy for a user, but also limit free form text is good! How many ways can the country name US be spelt – take a look in any database with free form country field and you will soon discover! Using check boxes and multi-selection boxes can all be used to keep data quality in the system even with users adding content.
Of course, IT doesn’t always really understand what information is being stored in the system – just that the fields are not null, have consistant values and are complete. The business user needs to clearly specify what they want from a data quality project so that IT can figure out where the data is going to come from.
Problems can arise when the business user doesn’t understand that a legacy system just isn’t accessible – the joy of mainframe accounting systems! The users think IT is being difficult or not team players when in fact it is just that IT has not clearly communicated to the business user why the data is not available.
Communication! An oft used term, flung around at other groups/managers/people, but never ourselves. We communicate perfectly, it’s the other people who need to get it! So, business users write your requirements in plain English so that IT can understand them. IT people need to use diagrams and simple words without acronyms to explain existing systems so that business users can understand.
Next week I will cover how we can use data quality to resolve the Middle East conflict!