Whether Weather Forecasting or Not

Predicting ROI from a data quality program (and many other business initiatives) is like predicting the weather. Probably you are able to guess if it is going to be good or bad, but most often you don’t exactly guess how well or bad it actually turned out.

Chances for predicting the weather right varies along with the time of year and your location. I have the pleasure of living in a place (Denmark) where the weather is pretty unpredictable.

Well, winter is usually cold and summer is warm.

We also know that if we have easterly winds coming in from the Russian Steppe during winter, it turns very cold. In summer that wind will make beautiful hot sunny days. Westerly winds in the winter coming in from the Atlantic Ocean means temperatures above freezing. In summer that wind often has some chill and rain with it.

But these are the main scenarios. Between those rough generalizations there is a myriad of factors, events and not fully understood processes that makes weather forecasting a chaotic discipline.

Making business cases for data quality programs have the same challenges. Well, at some spots on the globe (in some parts of the year) you can wake up every morning and be certain that it is going to be a hot sunny day. Likewise a lot of business activities will without any doubt benefit from better data quality – no further forecasting needed. In other cases it may be uncertain. Here you may rely on previous experiences (case studies by others) and your position. You may outline a business case and you could be right.

This morning at my place was forecasted to be mostly cloudy but dry. It is damned cloudy and raining a bit.

2 thoughts on “Whether Weather Forecasting or Not

  1. Jim Harris 16th May 2010 / 15:33

    Thanks Henrik for your sunny post on my cloudy morning 🙂

    This excellent meteorological metaphor for data quality ROI reminds me of a common objection to global warming, where people (including some meteorologists) claim that if we can’t accurately predict tomorrow’s weather, then how can we accurately predict that the increase in the Earth’s average temperature will continue to rise in the future, which could lead to an increasing rise in extreme weather events and other natural disasters.

    As you said, many business activities will without any doubt benefit from better data quality. However, this nearly irrefutable theory is refuted on a daily basis in practice within nearly every organization.

    Building the business case for data quality (or MDM or data governance as well) often sounds to many executives like the plot to a disaster movie that surely would make a great summer blockbuster.

    But just like going to the movies is quite an expensive proposition these days, making a lot of people willing to wait until the movie becomes available for rental or on television for free, many executives would rather forgo investing in data quality improvements using a similar wait and see approach.

    Of course, when a data quality disaster strikes the organization in real-life, the same executives can end up saying to themselves:

    “Wow, I guess what you see in the movies is real.”

    Best Regards,


  2. Henrik Liliendahl Sørensen 17th May 2010 / 05:51

    Thanks Jim, and apologies for actually being not so sunny on a Sunday morning having my usual cycling exercise canceled due to bad weather.

    Nevermind, the lad raised in the house next to my childhood home (and a Sørensen too) just won the Sunday stage in Giro d’Italia. And today, Monday, is forecasted to be a decent spring day.

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