Snowman Data Quality

Right now it is winter in the Northern Hemisphere and this year winter has come earlier than usual to Northern Europe where I live. We have already had a lot of snow.

One of the good things with snow is that you are able to build a snowman. Snowmen are beautiful pieces of art but very vulnerable.  Wind and not at least rising temperatures makes the snowman ugly and finally go away sooner or later.

Snowmen have this unfortunate fate common with many data quality initiatives.

Many articles, blog posts and so on in the data quality realm focuses on this fate related to technology based initiatives. The common practice of executing downstream cleansing of data using data quality tools is often criticized. As a practitioner in this field I have to admit that: Yes, I am often making the art of building snowman data quality.

An often stated alternative to using data quality tools is improving data quality through change management including relaying on changing the attitude of people entering and maintaining data. Though it’s not my area of expertise I have seen such initiatives too. And I am afraid that I am not convinced that such initiatives unfortunately also sooner or later have the same fate as the snowman.

As said, I’m not the expert here. I am only the little child watching how this snowman is exposed to the changing winds in many business environments and how it finally disappears when the business climate varies over time.

Now, this is supposed to be a cheerful blog about happy databases. I am ready for getting into some warm clothes and build a beautiful snowman of any kind.  

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6 thoughts on “Snowman Data Quality

  1. JoukoSalonen 5th December 2010 / 10:46

    I love good quality data. But I prefer to have it via specialized data experts. Namely. We need all our cleansing people, keep in order people, back in order people, taxonomers and others as long as life, evolution, human imagination, new ideas, collective dynamics, emergent shifts and agility rule over orders from above, inflexibility, rigidity, inertia and stiffness. As long as the world stays like this I am happy. The day snowman never melts means ice-age and order is back.

    • Henrik Liliendahl Sørensen 6th December 2010 / 09:41

      Thanks for the comment Jouko. Indeed we need different roles in work. I totally agree about the sentiment of preferring agility opposed to stiffness of many kinds. And yes, we don’t want a new ice age which will be measured by that snowmen never melts 🙂

  2. John Owens 6th December 2010 / 21:51

    Love the post, Henrik, and the falling snow 🙂

    We want to be “Agile” is far too often the cry of those who cannot adhere to defined standards in a consistent manner.

    Whenever I hear this I think of teenagers who want to be given “responsibility” and “freedom”. Some are ready for it, for others it can be damaging, even fatal.

    “Agility” in DQ can only be used in an organisation that is mature enough to have demonstrated that it can consistently apply high standards.

    Where true Agility is needed is not in peoples approaches to the quality of data but in their approach to implementing procedure and technology to enable people to get data right first time, every time.


    • Henrik Liliendahl Sørensen 7th December 2010 / 07:18

      Thanks John. We may disagree a bit about the possibilities for using agile approaches in data quality work. I remember a good post about that from Vish Agashe

  3. John Platten 9th December 2010 / 10:21

    Hello again Henrik. Great article, that is exactly what happens. To this I can add my own often voiced comfort to businesses that are experiencing these very problems:

    “If you don’t have change and you don’t have data problems… It’s probably time to switch off the lights, sell the office and go home”

    • Henrik Liliendahl Sørensen 9th December 2010 / 10:27

      Thanks John. Good saying.

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