The annual cost of bad data runs over 600 billion dollars for American companies alone, but because the ROI on improving data quality is hard to calculate, a data quality improvement program can be a notoriously hard sell. However, the ability to collect high quality data is critical in supporting your company’s decision-making. There are three categories of costs related to poor data quality:
- Process failure costs – Process failures range from such basics as inability to properly deliver emails to misdirected marketing campaigns and messages based on flawed data.
- Information scrap and rework costs – Flawed data can not only be costly in dollars, but also in staff time correcting problems caused by reliance on poor data.
- Opportunity losses – Failure to have correct and timely information can cause your company’s strategic decision makers to miss opportunities and lose revenue.
The First Place to Look
The solution is to find some data-quality champions in upper management. There are several places to look. Look in your mirror. There’s your first champion. Data Quality is an ongoing process, and unlike singular projects, typically not the sort of cause you can hand-off. To become a data quality champion do these things.
- Inform yourself. Read the literature. Learn about the advantage of good data quality to your company.
- Become a storyteller. Watch for problems related to poor data quality in other companies as well as your own. Share those stories with anyone who will listen in the company.
- Become a teacher. Educate those about you and above you in the hierarchy about ways to improve data. Talk about the need for organizing a formal data quality improvement program.
- Spread the blame around. Data quality problems are too easy to push off on the IT department. If the perception becomes that data quality is an IT problem alone, then IT will be expected to solve it and IT can’t. Data quality problems are systemic and have to be addressed globally. As you seek to enlist data quality champions you need to make potential champs aware that damage to the data stream happens in all departments at all levels.
- Network. Finding champions is all about finding people in key positions that are having troubles caused by poor data quality. People with a vested interest in a cause make the best champions.
What to Look for in a Champion
Not everyone in upper (or for that matter lower) management is a good candidate for data quality champion. Here are some things to look for in a champion:
- Passion: You are looking for someone who will catch the vision of good data governance. You want someone who will get excited and promote the cause to everyone around them.
- Respect: The people you want to champion your cause is someone well-respected in the company. These folks know how to communicate, build relationships, translate technical ideas and jargon and give it business value and vice versa. It’s important that your champion be able to clarify business concerns to the technical staff.
- Problem solving ability: Choose champions who enjoy solving others problems, usually while solving their own. Problem solvers possess social and communication skills that help them evangelize on behalf of data quality improvement. Problem solvers tend to be socially connected and good at creating and maintaining relationships. They keep their office doors open because they genuinely like dealing with people.
- Persuasiveness: Good champions can sell an idea. Your champion will be the primary marketer of the data quality vision to the people who have to approve paying for it. They are masters of the elevator pitch. They know how to make others see that good data quality and data governance makes the company more efficient, productive and profitable.
- Positive attitude: A data champion talks positively. Negative people will try to set up road blocks to your project. It takes a relentless optimist to smile and roll right over those roadblocks.
- Leadership: Leadership is a complex thing. Read books on the subject till you have an understanding of what a good leader looks like so you’ll recognize them in your organization.
Now go back and look in the mirror. You may find that you are the best champion you’ve got. You may not have the title or the clout to get the project approved on your own hook, but if you can do the things listed above, you will not only create support for your cause, but also attract other champions to stand alongside you.