Data quality should be a boardroom issue

During the next two years, more and more global business will be conducted via automated decisions and automated processes—all relying on the data residing in corporate databases. That's what supply chain management systems, for example, are all about.

But given the poor state of data quality today, that's a scary thought, according to a study by PricewaterhouseCoopers in New York. The study found that 75% of the 599 companies surveyed experienced financial pain from defective data.

Only 37% of the companies were "very confident" in the quality of their own data, and only 15% were "very confident" in the quality of the data of their trading partners, the study says.

At the point that businesses are become more dependent on data-driven systems, the study found "dangerous complacency" at the boardroom level. Some 40% of the CIOs and IT managers surveyed said data management received insufficient attention at the board level.

In essence, the study urged CEOs to recognize that data quality is increasingly a business-critical issue that can't be placed solely on the CIO's shoulders.

The study concluded that "poor data quality is threatening to undermine massive investment being made elsewhere," such as customer relationship management and supply chain management systems.

Some gurus say data quality could eventually become a competitive advantage for a business. But down in the trenches, data quality is simply the price of being a reliable participant in the supply chain. As Jim Highsmith, senior consultant at the Cutter Consortium in Arlington, Mass., once said: "Bombarding your business trading partners with poor data will be harder to sustain than bombarding one's own management and knowledge workers with poor data. Trading partners will quickly go to another partner."

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