Data Quality: Destinations Known

In his blog yesterday “Destination Unknown”, Garry Ure continues an ongoing discussion  regarding the nature of Data Quality.  Is it a journey or a destination?  Garry eventually suggests that there is no “final destination” but rather a series of journeys that “become smoother, quicker and more pleasant for those travelling.”

I have followed the conversation and am convinced that DQ should be a series of destinations where short journeys occur on the way to those destinations.  The reason is simple.  If we make it about one big destination or one big journey, we are not aligning our efforts with business goals.  We are pursuing DQ for the sake of DQ and it will become the “job for life” mentioned throughout this ongoing conversation.  Yet, that life might be a short one when lack of realized business value kills funding for DQ initiatives.

If we are to align our DQ initiatives with business goals, as I suggest is an imperative in my last post “Data Quality – How Much is Enough?”, we must identify specific projects that have tangible business benefits (directly to the bottom line – at least to begin with) that are quickly realized.  This means we are looking at less of a smooth journey and more of a sprint to a destination – to tackle a specific problem and show results in a short amount of time.  Most likely we’ll have a series of these sprints to destinations with little time to enjoy the journey.

Once we establish that we can produce value to the organization, we may be given more latitude to address more complex or long-term problems.  But this will only happen if we once again show the value to the organization in terms that the business people understand.

While comprehensive data quality initiatives are things we as practitioners want to see – in fact we build our world view around such – most enterprises (not all, mind you) are less interested in big initiatives and more interested in finite, specific, short projects that show results.  If we can get a series of these lined up, we can think of them in more in terms of an overall comprehensive plan if we like – even a journey.  But most functional business staff will think of them in terms of the specific projects that affect them.  Do you think this is the enterprise DQ equivalent of “think global, act local”?