”Fitness for Use” is Dead

The definition of data quality as being ”fitness for use” is challenged. “Real world alignment” or similar expressions are gaining traction.

Back in May Malcolm Chisholm made a tweet about the shortcomings of the “fitness for use” definition reported here on the blog in the post The Problem with Multiple Purposes of Use.

Last week the tweet was elaborated on the Information Management article called Data Quality is Not Fitness for Use. Today Jim Harris has a follow post called Data and its Relationships with Quality.

When working with data quality in the domain with far the most data quality issues being the quality of contact data (customer, supplier, employee and other party master data) I have many times experienced that making data fit for more than a single purpose of use almost always is about better real world alignment. Having data that actually represents what it purports to represent always helps with making data fit for use, even with more than one purpose of use.

In practice that in the contact data realm for example means:

  • Getting a standardized address at contact data entry makes it possible for you to easily link to sources with geo codes, property information and other location data for multiple purposes.
  • Obtaining a company registration number or other legal entity identifier (LEI) at data entry makes it possible to enrich with a wealth of available data held in public and commercial sources making data fit for many use cases.
  • Having a person’s name spelled according to available sources for the country in question helps a lot with typical data quality issues as uniqueness and consistency.

Also, making data real world aligned from the start is a big help when maintaining data as the real world will change over time.

Data quality tools will in my eyes also have to apply to this trend as discussed with Gartner in the post Quality of Data behind the Data Quality Magic Quadrant.

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4 thoughts on “”Fitness for Use” is Dead

  1. John Owens 21st August 2012 / 22:01

    Henrik, What you say is both false and true.

    Fitness for purpose is far from dead. It never will be as that is the fundamental definition of Quality.

    However, in order to make Information fit for purpose, then it really does need to have real world alignment and the Quality Assurance techniques that you describe for getting it right first time are essential.

    I used the term ‘Information’ above as it is the quality of the Information coming into and being used within the enterprise that really matters.

    When enterprises start having conversations around Information Quality, then ‘fitness for purpose’ makes perfect sense.


    • Henrik Liliendahl Sørensen 22nd August 2012 / 07:36

      Thanks for commenting John.

      Well, as with most “xxx is dead” titles, it is merely an indication about that the peak days of a given term are over. There will indeed be a lot of cases for dealing with fitness of use not at least with an information quality approach to the matter.

      However, as a data quality practitioner I have most times discovered that fulfilling multiple cases of information quality related to the same raw data is solved best with a real world alignment approach.

  2. Frank Harland 30th August 2012 / 15:49

    If there is no purpose, quality is never an issue.

    • Henrik Liliendahl Sørensen 31st August 2012 / 06:26

      Frank, indeed. I see the main issue as multiple purposes. My thesis is that there is a breakeven point when including more and more purposes where it will be less cumbersome to reflect the real world object rather than trying to align all known purposes.

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