Companies spend billions of dollars each year on initiatives to improve their ERP, CRM, supply chain and business intelligence capabilities, with varying levels of success. One reason for less-than-stellar results is the quality of the data inhabiting those systems. Too often, basic data hygiene is overlooked in the pursuit of big picture goals.
What data needs is a champion. Gartner Research predicts that by 2015, 25% of companies will appoint a Chief Data Officer (CDO). Without executive-level leadership, the responsibility for data quality ping-pongs between the IT department and business managers, with no good solution in sight.
Data is most often relegated to the IT group. However, business groups generate the data, they consume the data…why then is it tossed over the fence to IT to make sure it is accurate?
Ted Friedman, author of The World Is Flat and principal analyst at Gartner Research working on data management and integration, has a great perspective. “Poor data quality is a business issue, it’s not an IT issue,” Friedman said. “The only way companies are going to be successful in improving data quality is to begin to put the responsibility and accountability where it belongs, on the business side.”
In my experience, IT departments rely on IT tools to address data quality – and that can lead to a simplistic solution to a complex problem. It’s like the old saying goes, “If the only tool you have in your toolbox is a hammer, you see every problem as a nail.” Technology solutions are important, but they only account for a piece of a more holistic solution that safeguards data quality.
A CDO can bring business and IT folks together, and marry their shared goals. IT folks can educate managers about the tools at their disposal, and business leaders can articulate their needs and prioritize projects that can bring the greater returns to the business overall.
A few years ago, Google CEO Eric Schmidt was quoting as saying: every two days, we create as much information as we did from the beginning of time until 2003. You can argue the exact number of exabytes that end users generate in a day. But the fact remains: we are in for a lot more data. My thinking is, better get out in front of this trend, or risk getting left behind.
Image credit: Patrick Finnegan