Without executive sponsorship from the business side, the data quality policies of the organization and the work habits of the staff will not change. The best data quality disciplines will have little effect if senior executives continue to reward their staff for speed rather than quality. Senior business executives must institute an incentive program for employees to follow the new data quality policies. The incentive program should be composed of two main parts. One should be public recognition of employees who make major contributions toward the data quality improvement process, and the other should be a monetary bonus. Only through strong business sponsorship and commitment can incentives be changed and a quality improvement process be enforced.
Business Responsibility for Data Quality
Data archeology (finding bad data), data cleansing (correcting bad data), and data quality enforcement (preventing data defects at the source) should be business objectives. Therefore, data quality initiatives are business initiatives and require the involvement of business people, such as information consumers and data originators.
Because data originators create the data and establish business rules and policies over the data, they are directly responsible to the downstream information consumers (knowledge workers, business analysts, and business managers) who need to use that data. If downstream information consumers base their business decisions on poor-quality data and suffer financial losses because of it, then the data originators must be held accountable. Data quality accountability is neither temporary nor application-specific. Thus, the business people must make the commitment to permanently accept these responsibilities.
Data originators, also known as information producers and data owners, are key players in data quality. They are usually business managers and staff responsible for a distinct function or operation of the business. Most operational systems are developed for them, thus, they are the ones who provide the original data requirements, data definitions, data domains, business rules, and process rules. During the requirements definition phase of a new system or during a conversion, data originators should involve downstream information consumers to collect and include the data requirements from these constituents. Information consumers are typically marketing people, the sales force, customer service representatives, or financial analysts.
Data originators are also responsible for participating in all testing activities as well as in retroactive data profiling and data assessment activities. If data defects are discovered, then the data originators should plan to address the root causes that reside in their systems or that resulted from their poor data-entry habits. Information consumers should know who the data originators are, so that they can take their data questions or data disputes directly to them for resolution.
Information consumers are the internal customers who need to consume business data for operational, tactical, or strategic decision-making purposes. They are usually business managers and staff who are responsible for resolving customer inquiries or disputes on the operational level, or for providing executive management with reports for strategic planning. Their data requirements are not the same as those of the data originators, but must be considered when a new system is developed.
Information consumers should participate during the requirements gathering activities for all systems from which they will eventually extract data for their own analytical use. They must participate in the data quality improvement process because they are frequently the first to discover data discrepancies that are not obvious to an operationally-oriented business person.