Cutter: Data Quality Major Issue for IT

Data quality is, and will continue to be, one of the major issues facing IT during the 21st century, asserts the Cutter Technology Council in a recent Council Opinion.

"The reasons that data quality problems have been traditionally overlooked are many and varied," says Council fellow Ken Orr. "Most managers and IT professionals assume that because a system works,

all of the data within the system is more or less accurate. This is not true. As it turns out, data within an operational system is only as good as it needs to be to satisfy the system's primary functions."

Fellow Ed Yourdon adds that providing an incentive to a company's data entry staff may cut down on some data-quality problems, but with the emergence of the Internet, a customer is often the one typing

transaction details onto a Web form. "Obviously, I do have some motivation to type my name correctly," jokes Yourdon, "But I care much less about the accuracy of the phone or fax numbers that I type into the data fields because I have no interest in having the vendor call me."

The Council identifies four steps companies can take to ensure top data quality:

* Establish a data quality initiative

* Begin a data quality education program

* Create a data quality group

* Identify data quality targets of opportunity

But for all data quality issues to be resolved, organizations must find a way to encourage both customers and inhouse staff to do a better job. "Management has been late to recognize the true importance of data quality to the overall organization," concludes Orr. "With the move to the Internet, organizations will have to include data quality as a key component of all their information-based initiatives."