Andy on Enterprise Software

A Burning Platform

April 30, 2008

I was amused by a piece regarding data quality in which a data quality initiative at a chemical manufacturer was kicked off only after a warehouse burnt down and the company discovered that they had no way of tracing which customers would be affected. I recall a similar example at Shell, where a data quality initiative received a serious management boost when an oil well was drilled into an existing well (fortunately it was not in use at the time) due to faulty positional data in a computer system.

These kind of incidents demonstrate that management care about data quality when there is a crisis, but when things are running smoothly it is usually a long way down the priority lists of businesses. This is a puzzle in many ways, and frustrating for the data quality software industry, where few vendors see widespread deployment in enterprise initiatives. Usually data quality software is implemented (if ti is at all) in a piecemeal project by project fashion, and many companies have no data quality software deployed at all.

Perhaps it is just one of those subjects that few get excited over. Author Kurt Vonnegut once said: “Another flaw in the human character is that everybody wants to build and nobody wants to do maintenance.” and perhaps this is an inherent problem with data quality – it is hard to make it appealing to executives. Some more creative marketing by the industry could perhaps change this perception.