Data Quality and Climate Politics

cop15_logo_imgIn 1 month and 1 day the United Nations Climate Change Conference commence in my hometown Copenhagen. Here the people of the Earth will decide if we want to save the planet now or we will wait a while and see what happens.

The Data Quality issue might seem of little importance compared to the climate issue. Nevertheless I have been thinking about some similarities between Data Governance/ Data Quality and climate politics.

It goes like this:

CEO buy-in

It’s often said that CEO’s don’t buy-in on data quality improvements because it’s a loser’s game. In climate politics the CEO’s are the heads of states. It’s still a question how many heads of state who will attend the Copenhagen conference. There is a great deal of attention around whether United States president Barack Obama will attend. His last visit to Copenhagen in early October didn’t turn out as a success as his recommendation for Chicago as Olympic host city was fruitless. I guess he will only come again if success is very likely.

Personal agendas  

On the other hand British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has urged all world leaders to come to Copenhagen. While I think this is great for the conference being a success I also have a personal reason to think, that it’s a very bad idea. Having all the world heads of states driving around in the Copenhagen streets surrounded by a horde of police bikes will make traffic jams interfering with my daily work and more seriously my Christmas shopping.

It’s no secret that much of the climate problem is caused by us as individuals not being more careful about our energy consumption in daily routines. Data Quality is all the same about individuals not thinking ahead but focusing on having daily work done as quickly and comfortable as possible.

The business perspective

My fellow countryman Bjørn Lomborg is a prominent proponent of the view of focusing more on battling starvation, diseases and other evils because the resources will be spent more effective here than the marginal effects the same resources will have on fighting changing climate.

Data Quality improvement is often omitted from Business Process Reengineering when the scope of these initiatives is undergoing prioritizing focusing on worthy measurable short term wins.

Final words

My hope for my planet – and my profession – is that we are able to look ahead and do what is best for the future while we take personal responsibility and care in our daily work and life.

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8 thoughts on “Data Quality and Climate Politics

  1. Charles Blyth 6th November 2009 / 11:57

    I love the comparisons Henrik.

    Maybe the leaders should follow the referential MDM hub approach, stay were they are, and connect to each other through a central teleconference ‘hub’.


  2. Steve Sarsfield 6th November 2009 / 16:23

    This calls for the classic do nothing option. In this discussion, we should be sure to state that energy conservation has an ROI, but also there’s anarchy and chaos on the horizon if we do nothing about our ecology. Like data quality, taking care of our planet has both an upside if we do it and a downside if we don’t.

  3. Henrik Liliendahl Sørensen 7th November 2009 / 08:34

    Thanks Charles. I think the conference actually will be a hybrid style hub as Cisco is sponsoring Virtual Conferencing at COP15.

    Steve, it’s a very good point. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Rolfe Jaremus 10th November 2009 / 15:48

    This is an interesting comparison because inaction with both the climate and with data management has negative long term consequences. At least that’s what the experts in the field contend. The CEO and CIO’s of companies, like our political leaders, need to decide how important an investment in data management is to their company. Is their company data / information intensive? How much of a payback is there? How long does it take to see improvement? These are questions that leaders think of when trying to decide if an investment in data management (or climate change) is important vs. other system (or political)demands.

    Like climate change, what will cause corporate leaders to act is evidence of impact and a belief that an investment now can help overcome problems, or improve systems development in the future.

  5. Henrik Liliendahl Sørensen 10th November 2009 / 16:05

    Rolfe, thanks for commenting.

    Calculating the business case has always been the Achilles’ heel for data quality / management. Like with climate proving the numbers isn’t always easy.

  6. Henrik Liliendahl Sørensen 10th November 2009 / 16:17

    In various LinkedIn groups there have been several other comments:

    The DAMA international group:

    Eugene Desyatnik says:

    In both cases, everyone in their heart agrees it’s a noble cause, and sees how they can benefit — but in both cases, everyone also hopes someone else will pay for most of it. Yes, I see it.

    Dean Groves says:

    Yes, these two subjects are strikingly similar. Maybe we could start talking about Data Climate Change (increasing pressure from external forces such as social networks, conflict between transparency and privacy issues, etc.) to convey more of a sense of urgency.

    The Data Quality Association group:

    Martin Doyle says:

    I like your metaphor of Data Quality equating to attitudes to Climate Change.

    Like climate change, many are in denial as to its long term impact. Actually denial is too generous, in my opinion many are in pre-denial a state, a blissful ignorance that there is even an issue. They simply just don’t knwo what they don’t know.

    In that state of mind no wonder it’s tough to get buy in for climate change reversal initiatives. So now we have it, like Climate Change initiatives, DQ initiatives are tough to get off the ground too!.

    Neil Hoey says:

    Your excellent article makes me think what motivates change? – Compliance, Power, a better world….probably in that order, unfortunatly.

  7. Sean McClowry 11th November 2009 / 16:01

    Hi Henrik,
    I definitely see a lot of parallels between information management (an in particular data governance / data quality management).

    From the impacts of “front line” staff to the need to have reporting and analytical systems to understand complex situations.

    I have been working on this area for a while and started an open source project around it. Here are some links you may interesting:

    The basic idea is this:
    – Project 1: open framework for information management best practices (
    – Project 2: open framework for sustainability best practices, driven by better information management (

    Project 1 is pretty widely used in the industry and used at many companies around the globe. Project 2 is less mature but its

    adoption is increasing.

    I personally believe that better information and governance is a key aspect of solving the sustainability challenge. Would be great to get your help in building this community.


  8. Henrik Liliendahl Sørensen 5th December 2009 / 11:48

    Sean, a belated thanks for your contribution – we could see the Mike2 as a grass root movement and I don’t think you can’t overestimate the importance of grass roots in climate and information management.

    On the executive front it now seems that climate are getting buy-in. Over 100 heads of state and government will attend the climate summit starting Monday – including Barrack Obama.

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