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5/26/2004
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Businesses Score Low On Information Quality

A Forrester Research study says companies are good at compiling data but most need to improve the quality of the information they're amassing.

Most large businesses have a big problem with information quality, according to a newly released survey by Forrester Research.

In "From Defect Inspection to A Design for Information Quality," Forrester principal analyst Lou Agosta finds that while many companies have improved their information quality, problems persist. They are addicted to data, he writes, but in quality denial.

Indeed, companywide approaches to information quality seem to be the exception rather than the rule. Fully one-fifth of the companies responding to the survey had no consistent strategy, and those that did, tended to have scattered approaches. Almost a third of the respondents dealt with information quality inconsistently, on a localized basis.

Consequently, even though companies are amassing huge quantities of data from business processes and transactions, much of it is obsolete, duplicated, or just plain wrong, subverting its usefulness. Moreover, inconsistent and inaccurate information creates business uncertainty, leaving a company swimming in an ocean of data, but unavailable to act.

According to Agosta, it's not enough for companies to sift through data looking for defects on a case-by-case basis; that's "firefighting, not information quality improvement," he writes. What companies need to do is to get serious with information-quality improvement and approach it strategically, as an information product quality-control issue, in terms of a service-level agreement or as a commitment to a system design for information quality.

Most important, companies have to be willing to take a close look at themselves and establish information-quality processes before deploying technology to solve the problem. Businesses need to create a safe harbor that will let employees expose information-quality problems without retribution, then take steps to correct them. Agosta observes that a major reason information-quality issues remain unresolved is that employees fear that management will "shoot the messenger"

Companies need to implement a clear and consistent information-quality policy and quantifiable process across the business, as well as identify and empower an information-quality evangelist to lead and coordinate the effort at the highest level. Agosta concludes that the problem, though substantial, can be solved through the application of information-quality best practices.

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