Service Targets Data Quality Pitfalls

Firstlogic’s new data quality services offering promises to help companies quickly get up to speed on the technology

Whenever vendors introduce services designed to complement an already saturated (or feature-homogeneous) market, it’s a good bet a technology has arrived.

That’s just what’s happening in the data quality space. Firstlogic last week unveiled IQ Assurance, a new data quality program it designed for enterprise IT organizations of any size.

Unlike Firstlogic’s bread-and-butter data quality products, IQ Assurance is a non-technology-based offering. It comprises a knowledge base of programs, methodologies, and strategic consulting services that Firstlogic officials say are tailored for organizations that are just beginning to undertake data quality initiatives. Because many of the IQ Assurance best practices are based on Firstlogic’s own experience in the data quality space, officials claim the service can help improve even established data quality practices.

Firstlogic itself acknowledged the maturity of the data quality market, if in a back-handed way. “Firstlogic is the first technology company in the data quality space to promote the fact that technology alone cannot solve the abundance of issues surrounding the fitness and use of data in an organization,” said Frank Dravis, vice president of information quality research and practices at Firstlogic.

Where technology can’t or dare not tread, services invariably take over. In this respect, analysts say, IQ Assurance is as good as advertised—it’s a primer for implementing a data quality strategy in enterprises of all sizes.

“Essentially, the program is designed to help a prospect to understand its data needs, and then help the prospect take the appropriate means to get the project approved and funded, after which the program helps with the implementation,” says Rob Lerner, a senior analyst for application infrastructure with consultancy Current Analysis. The big attraction, Lerner says, is that Firstlogic’s approach promises to bypass all of the “potential stumbling blocks that could derail a project at any point in this process.”

Lerner notes that IQ Assurance isn’t quite the brand-spanking new service Firstlogic makes it out to be. In fact, he says, Firstlogic already sells many of IQ Assurance’s parts: “The program is essentially a formalization of these services in order to enhance the value of customer implementations,” stressing that this isn’t an entirely unexpected development. “Firstlogic appeared to be going in this very direction [that is, a formal services program] since the introduction of IQ Insight … which at the time offered a more-or-less formalized program that included services and technology that were centered on profiling.”

Even though Lerner sees IQ Assurance as mostly upside for Firstlogic, he stresses that there could be some potential pitfalls, too. “This program could cause some concerns among the company’s [systems integration] partners, if only because the company appears to [be] positioning itself to compete with these companies,” he observes. Firstlogic, for its part, has anticipated just such a reaction from its partners, and the company says it is in the process of training system integrators on the program. The upshot, Firstlogic claims, is that either it will provide the IQ Assurance services or its partners will.

One reason Firstlogic and other vendors like services is because they’re incredibly profitable. Revenue from IBM Corp.’s services (including IBM Global Services and IBM Business Consulting Services), for example, accounts for roughly half of Big Blue’s annual revenues. With this in mind, just how affordable is Firstlogic’s IQ Assurance—especially for smaller shops that haven’t yet stepped into data quality, let alone data quality services?

Company officials say IQ Assurance can be purchased piecemeal or in its entirety, letting customers pick and choose what they want. Assuming that the devil isn’t in the details, analysts such as Lerner think this is a smart move to court favor with many fence-sitting customers.

“This will doubtless prove attractive to customers who may not need all the services or who may also have a service engagement from an SI that duplicates some of Firstlogic’s offerings."

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.