Overcoming Dirty Data

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You can’t go a day without hearing about data. You probably can’t even go a day without feeling frustrated by dirty data. Consider this: at this very moment your organization has the least amount of data it will likely ever have again. Problems you’re having right now with data quality, data integration, availability and more aren’t going to magically go away! They’re only going to become more difficult to solve as time goes on.

Data management isn’t just about selecting the right tool or partnering with the right vendor; it’s about choosing to adopt discipline in your approach to your organization’s data, and seeing data as the valuable asset it is. Unfortunately, there isn’t a single “magic bullet” available on the market that will deliver fully fledged data management. Being successful at implementing data management is about finding the business value, identifying “low hanging fruit”, executing proof of concept projects, and showing incremental wins. Through achieving short term goals and measuring a true return on investment, the needle can be moved and the organizational culture can be shifted towards a more data driven enterprise.

We’ve found there are four key questions each organization needs to consider when determining how to deal with their data:

Who’s responsible for data quality?

If you still think data is wholly owned by IT, and only IT is responsible for it, you’re behind the times. Are your employees governed only by HR? Is your capital owned solely by finance? Your data is an asset, and it belongs to the organization. Sure, IT facilitates its storage and access, but can IT alone be held responsible for data quality? What about data governance? IT should not be tasked with finding tangible business value within the data. Data should be seen as a corporate asset, as important as any other strategic asset.

How does your current data challenge impact the overall organization’s goals?

General Creighton Abrams once famously said “When eating an elephant, take it one bite at a time.” As your organization considers how to tackle a data initiative (be it implementing data governance or standing up a new data warehouse) consider those simple, wise words. Establish a vision, and lay out realistic milestones. Commit to achievable goals that provide measurable value. Break down the effort and focus on the building blocks. Launch pilot projects that can deliver value quickly and be expanded to larger efforts. Build a proof of concept that can help get buy in from decision makers.

How do you demonstrate the ROI on data quality initiatives?

Calculating the Return on Investment on any effort can be difficult at best and far-from-the-mark at worst. Consider the costs of poor data ranging from business decisions made on incorrect data to the hourly cost of employees who are manually fixing data issues or the impact of data loss. Now consider the value of “good” data: better decision making, integrating data for a more thorough view of the business, improved performance due to accurate metrics, ensuring alignment to business strategy just to name a few.  A thorough, thoughtful approach to establishing the ROI of any data project is essential to making a visible impact to the “bottom line”, and makes the case that your data is worth more than it costs from both a quantitative and qualitative standpoint.

What’s urgent vs. what’s simply important?

If your data needs are truly pressing, it’s okay for “the important” to “give way to the urgent” as the old adage says; but not for long. The “important,” I’d argue, is what I’ve been harping on- making the value of any effort tangible. I’m willing to bet, however, that if you’ve done your due diligence in figuring out the “why” for any data management activities, you can find the project in that coveted “urgent and important” quadrant, and have an easier time getting it green-lit.

Your data’s dirty, and it’s hard to fix on your own. Fortunately, you don’t have to go it alone. UDig is here to help. With expertise in Data Governance, Data Architecture, BI & Analytics we’re ready to back you up. Whether it’s a small proof-of-concept, or an overarching enterprise-wide effort, we’ve got you covered. Contact us today to set up a conversation, and see if we can help!

About The Author

Steve MacLauchlan is the Director of Data in Richmond. More than anything, he loves solving problems collaboratively with our clients and building lasting relationships. He believes data is the key to the future, and the ability to leverage it is paramount to remaining competitive.