A Guide to Data Quality

While working with some exciting strategic data management projects together with the data management consultancy firm parsionate, the quest of ensuring data quality in large companies is one of the key topics.

Your Success Factors

In their latest whitepaper parsionate has put data quality in context. The idea behind is this is that only when your data quality initiatives are connected with business goals they will be acknowledged and sustained in business operations.

Marketing departments today want to drive more sales through online channels. To do that you will need a bunch of data quality improvements like having convincing product descriptions for all products put on sale online and having consistent and updated prices across all channels.

In operative management you always strive for making better decisions. To be able to do that you need accurate, updated, and well-related information about markets, products, competitors.

In strategic management your aim is to exploit economies of scale. During mergers and acquisitions, managers must pay particular attention to data quality. In the case of mergers, it must be ensured that the data quality of the previously separate systems is impeccable so that weaknesses are not ported to the new overall situation.

For HR key objectives are to find the best candidates and develop potential. These processes are being digitalized with machine decisions involved. This can only work if the undelaying data is complete, updated and consistent.

For logistics the future belongs to the intelligent supply chain. In many cases the data needed to support this is available, however not in the right quality at the right time. Here, the right data quality management can make a huge difference. 

Source: parsionate, data quality in context

The Right Steps to Drive Business Forward

Your roadmap to high data quality that will pave the way to successful business should involve the following 8 steps:

1: Appoint responsible persons for the data

2: Set targets and Key-Performance-Indicators

3: Evaluate data quality of existing data

4: Cleanse and harmonize data inventories

5: Define standards and processes

6: Automate data quality maintenance

7: Regulate data quality across divisions, groups and borders

8: Continuously improve data quality

Learn More

To get more details on the range of success factors for the various business areas and the 8 step roadmap you can download a free copy of the parsionate Data Quality in Context guide here.

2022 Data Management Predictions

On the second last day of the year it is time to predict about next year. My predictions for the year gone were in the post Annus Horribilis 2020, Annus Mirabilis 2021?. These predictions were fortunately fluffy enough to claim that they were right.

There is no reason not to believe that the wave of digitalization will go on and even intensify. Also, it seems obvious that data management will be a sweet spot of digitalization.

The three disciplines within data management focussed on at this blog are:

  • MDM: Master Data Management
  • PIM: Product Information Management
  • DQM: Data Quality Management

So, let`s look at what might happen next year within these overlapping disciplines.

MDM in 2022

MDM will keep inflating as explained in the post How MDM inflates

More organizations will go for enterprise wide MDM implementations and those who accomplish that will continue to do interenterprise MDM.

More business objects will be handled within the MDM discipline. Multidomain MDM will in more and more cases extend beyond the traditional customer, supplier and product domain.

Intelligent capabilities as Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) will augment the basic IT capabilities currently used within MDM.

PIM in 2022

As with MDM also PIM will go more interenterprise wide. As organizations get a grip on internal product data stores the focus will move to collaborating with external suppliers of product data and external consumers of product data through Product Data Syndication.

In some industries PIM will start extending from the handling the product model to also handling each instance of each product as examined in the post Product Model vs Product Instance.

There will also be a term called augmented PIM meaning using Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence to improve product data quality. In fact, classification of products using AI has been an early use case of AI in data management. This use case will be utilized more and more besides other product information use cases for AI and ML.

DQM in 2022

Data quality management will also go wider as data quality requirements increasingly will be a topic in business partnerships. More and more contracts between trading partners will besides pricing and timing also emphasize on data quality.

Data quality improvement has for many years been focused on the quality of customer data. This is now extending to other business objects where we will see data quality tools will get better support for other data domains and the data quality dimensions that are essential here.

ML and AI data quality use cases will continue to be implemented and go beyond the current trial stage to be part of operational business processes though still at only a minority of organizations.  

Happy New Year.

The Disruptive MDM/PIM/DQM List 2022: Datactics

A major rework of The Disruptive MDM/PIM/DQM List is in the making as the number of visitors keep increasing and so do the number of requests for individual solution lists.

It is good to see that some of the most innovative solution providers commit to be part of the list also next year.

One of those is Datactics.

Datactics is a veteran data quality solution provider who is constantly innovating in this space. This year Datactics was one of the rare new entries in The Gartner Magic Quadrant for Data Quality Solutions 2021.

It will be exciting to follow the ongoing development at Datactics, who is operating under the slogan: “Democratising Data Quality”.

You can learn more about how their self-service data quality and matching solution looks like here.

Core Datactics capabilities

Five Pairs of Data Quality Dimensions

Data quality dimensions are some of the most used terms when explaining why data quality is important, what data quality issues can be and how you can measure data quality. Ironically, we sometimes use the same data quality dimension term for two different things or use two different data quality dimension terms for the same thing. Some of the troubling terms are:

Validity / Conformity – same same but different

Validity is most often used to describe if data filled in a data field obeys a required format or are among a list of accepted values. Databases are usually well in doing this like ensuring that an entered date has the day-month-year sequence asked for and is a date in the calendar or to cross check data values against another table and see if the value exist there.

The problems arise when data is moved between databases with different rules and when data is captured in textual forms before being loaded into a database.

Conformity is often used to describe if data adheres to a given standard, like an industry or international standard. This standard may due to complexity and other circumstances not or only partly be implemented as database constraints or by other means. Therefore, a given piece of data may seem to be a valid database value but not being in compliance with a given standard.

Sometimes conformity is linked to the geography in question. For example a postal code will be conform depending on the country where the address is in. Therefore, a the postal code 12345 is conform in Germany, but not in United Kingdom.

Accuracy / Precision – true, false or not sure

The difference between accuracy and precision is a well-known statistical subject.

In the data quality realm accuracy is most often used to describe if the data value corresponds correctly to a real-world entity. If we for example have a postal address of the person “Robert Smith” being “123 Main Street in Anytown” this data value may be accurate because this person (for the moment) lives at that address.

But if “123 Main Street in Anytown” has 3 different apartments each having its own mailbox, the value does not, for a given purpose, have the required precision.

If we work with geocoordinates we have the same challenge. A given accurate geocode may have the sufficient precision to tell the direction to the nearest supermarket is, but not precise enough to know in which apartment the out-of-milk smart refrigerator is.

Timeliness / Currency – when time matters

Timeliness is most often used to state if a given data value is present when it is needed. For example, you need the postal address of “Robert Smith” when you want to send a paper invoice or when you want to establish his demographic stereotype for a campaign.

Currency is most often used to state if the data value is accurate at a given time – for example if “123 Main Street in Anytown” is the current postal address of “Robert Smith”.

Uniqueness / Duplication – positive or negative

Uniqueness is the positive term where duplication is the negative term for the same issue.

We strive to have uniqueness by avoiding duplicates. In data quality lingo duplicates are two (or more) data values describing the same real-world entity. For example, we may assume that

  • “Robert Smith at 123 Main Street, Suite 2 in Anytown”

is the same person as

  • “Bob Smith at 123 Main Str in Anytown”

Completeness / Existence – to be, or not to be

Completeness is most often used to tell in what degree all required data elements are populated.

Existence can be used to tell if a given dataset has all the needed data elements for a given purpose defined.

So “Bob Smith at 123 Main Str in Anytown” is complete if we need name, street address and city, but only 75 % complete if we need name, street address, city and preferred colour and preferred colour is an existent data element in the dataset.

Data Quality Management 

Master Data Management (MDM) solutions and specialized Data Quality Management (DQM) tools have capabilities to asses data quality dimensions and improve data quality within the different data quality dimensions.

Check out the range of the best solutions to cover this space on The Disruptive MDM &PIM &DQM List.

Opportunities on The Data Quality Tool Market

The latest Information Difference Data Quality Landscape is out. This is a generic ranking of major data quality tools on the market.

You can see the previous data quality landscape in the post Congrats to Datactics for Having the Happiest DQM Customers.

There are not any significant changes in the relative positioning of the vendors. Only thing is that Syncsort has been renamed to Precisely.

As stated in the report, much of the data quality industry is focused on name and address validation. However, there are many opportunities for data quality vendors to spread their wings and better tackle problems in other data domains, such as product, asset and inventory data.

One explanation of why this is not happening is probably the interwoven structure of the joint Master Data Management (MDM), Product Information Management (PIM) and Data Quality Management (DQM) markets and disciplines. For example, a predominant data quality issue as completeness of product information is addressed in PIM solutions and even better in Product Data Syndication (PDS) solutions.

Here, there are some opportunities for pure play vendors within each speciality to work together as well as for the larger vendors for offering both a true integrated overall solution as well as contextual solutions for each issue with a reasonable cost/benefit ratio.

Data Quality and Interenterprise Data Sharing

When working with data quality improvement there are three kinds of data to consider:

First-party data is the data that is born and managed internally within the enterprise. This data has traditionally been in focus of data quality methodologies and tools with the aim of ensuring that data is fit for the purpose of use and correctly reflects the real-world entity that the data is describing.  

Third-party data is data sourced from external providers who offers a set of data that can be utilized by many enterprises. Examples a location directories, business directories as the Dun & Bradtstreet Worldbase and public national directories and product data pools as for example the Global Data Synchronization Network (GDSN).

Enriching first-party data with third-party is a mean to ensure namely better data completeness, better data consistency, and better data uniqueness.

Second-party data is data sourced directly from a business partner. Examples are supplier self-registration, customer self-registration and inbound product data syndication. Exchange of this data is also called interenterprise data sharing.

The advantage of using second-party in a data quality perspective is that you are closer to the source, which all things equal will mean that data better and more accurately reflects the real-world entity that the data is describing.

In addition to that, you will also, compared to third-party data, have the opportunity to operate with data that exactly fits your operating model and make you unique compared to your competitors.

Finally, second-party data obtained through interenterprise data sharing, will reduce the costs of capturing data compared to first-party data, where else the ever-increasing demand for more elaborate high-quality data in the age of digital transformation will overwhelm your organization.    

The Balancing Act

Getting the most optimal data quality with the least effort is about balancing the use of internal and external data, where you can exploit interenterprise data sharing through combining second-party and third-party data in the way that makes most sense for your organization.

As always, I am ready to discus your challenge. You can book a short online session for that here.

The Most Annoying Way of Presenting Data

Polls are popular on LinkedIn and I have been a sinner of making a few too recently.

One was about what way of presenting data (data format) that is the most annoying.

There were the 4 mentioned above to choose from.

The MM/DD/YYYY date format is in use practically only in the United States. In the rest of the world either the DD/MM/YYYY format or the ISO recommended YYYY-MM-DD format is the chosen one. The data quality challenge appears when you see a date as 03/02/2021 in an international context, because this can be either March, 2 or 3rd February.  

The 12-hour clock with AM and PM postfix, is more commonly in use around the world. But obviously the 12-hour clock is not as well thought as the 24-hour clock. We need some digital transformation here.

Imperial units of measure like inch, foot, yard, pound, and more is far less logical and structured compared to the metric system. Only 3 countries around the world – United States, Myanmar and Liberia has not adopted the metric system. And then there is United Kingdom, who has adopted the metric system in theory, but not in practice.

The Fahrenheit temperature scale is something only used in the United States opposite to Celsius (centigrade) used anywhere else. When someone writes that it is 30 degrees outside that could be quite cold or rather hot if there is no unit of measure applied.

Another example of international trouble mentioned in the comments to the poll is decimal point. In English writing you will use a dot for the decimal point, in many other cultures you use a comma as decimal point.

Most of the annoyance are handled by that mature software have settings where you can set your preferences. The data quality issues arise when these data are part of a text including when software must convert a text into a number, date or time.

If you spot some grey colour (or is it color) in my hair, I blame varying data formats in CSV files, SQL statements, emails and more.

From Data Quality to Business Outcome

Explaining how data quality improvement will lead to business outcome has always been difficult. The challenge is that there very seldom is a case where you with confidence can say “fix this data and you will earn x money within y days”.

Not that I have not seen such bold statements. However, they very rarely survive a reality check. On the other hand, we all know that data quality problems seriously effect the healthiness of any business.

A reason why the world is not that simple is that there is a long stretch from data quality to business outcome. The stretch goes like this:

  • First, data quality must be translated into information quality. Raw data must be put into a business context where the impact of duplicates, incomplete records, inaccurate values and so on is quantified, qualified and related within affected business scenarios.
  • Next, the achieved information quality advancements must be actionable in order to cater for better business decisions. Here it is essential to look beyond the purpose of why the data was gathered in the first place and explore how a given piece of information can serve multiple purpose of actions.
  • Finally, the decisions must enable positive business outcomes within growth, cost reductions, mitigation of risks and/or time to value. Often these goals are met through multiple chains of bringing data into context, making that information actionable and taking the right decisions based on the achieved and shared knowledge.

Stay tuned – and also look back – on this blog for observations and experiences for proven paths on how to improve data quality leading to positive business outcome.