By Elliot King

Elliot King

Too often, data quality is seen as a strictly technical issue. Data quality problems must be identified, assessed and then rectified, and that process is best managed by experts using the right tools.

But communication may be the most important element in a data quality program. A data quality program can only succeed if all the stakeholders understand the data quality program and play their role properly in executing it. Data quality initiatives should not be done “to” people but “with” them.

The first step in establishing an effective communications program for data
quality initiatives is to identify and assemble the relevant stakeholders. In
essence, this group should represent everybody in the organization responsible
for either producing or consuming data. In essence, there should be a
representative from every major functional area.

The members of this group must identify who within their functional areas must
know about specific data quality issues and initiatives, and establish
procedures to insure that information is received and disseminated in a timely
fashion. They must also serve as a conduit for people in their areas to report
data quality issues as they emerge.

While a cross-functional communications team is essential, it is only one aspect
of a data quality program. In many organizations, data governance is a shared
responsibility and the data policies developed by the data governance team must
be effectively communicated throughout an organization. If people do not know
what is expected of them, they cannot meet those expectations.

So how should these communication networks operate in practice? Well, for
example, consider how customer service representatives (CSR) are evaluated by
how quickly they resolve customer calls. The pressure to work faster inevitably
will lead to more mistakes. So if the organization decides to increase the
service-level goals for its CSRs, the people responsible for maintaining data
quality should be alerted to the change and be given the time to assess its
impact. This sounds obvious, but too often it doesn’t happen.

Along the same lines, let’s say the marketing department wishes to purchase an
external list for marketing. That list should be first evaluated according to
established data quality criteria. There needs to be a concerted effort to
communicate with the relevant stakeholders the utilization of this external list
to determine potential quality issues that will need to be addressed.

Having a strong communication program in place is essential to preventing data
quality problems. But the most important communication must come from the
executive suite. Everybody in an organization must know that good data quality
is a high priority and act accordingly.


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