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Data and Information Assembly Australia

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Data and Information Assembly Australia - ARK Group eventIt’s been quite a while since I’ve last done a conference review, but last week I attended the Data and Information Assembly Australia. With a subtitle like “There and Back Again with Data Management” there were quite a few interesting topics covered. Organised and run by the ARK Group, it was a pretty smooth affair.

Data Quality is key

Although topics like privacy, security, compliance, data governance and some other related subjects that resort under the DAMA data management framework were mentioned, by far the focus was on data quality. Not surprising as the event was presented by DQ Asia Pacific and the International Association for Information and Data Quality.

Some of the presentations discussed the payback of improved data quality – listing aspects such as reduce wastage of time and human resources, better quality and maturity of information, better quality decisions based on a more closer resemblance of the single version of the truth, and so on, but most presentations focussed on what their data quality initiatives consist of, and how these were managed and implemented in the organisation.

Most of the more successful data quality initiatives had these aspects in common:

  • Buy-in from the top
  • Reporting data quality metrics
  • Involving operational staff
  • Long-running programs

Buy-in from the top

From large multi-national insurance companies, to regional not-for-profit hospital groups, to smaller leaner niche businesses, all the organisations that showed success for their data quality initiatives, had strong buy-in from the executive. Almost to a tee all these presentations mentioned the CEO. In some cases he endorsed the program, in others the information management unit reported directly to the CEO, in other cases the CEO herself handed out the data quality adherence rewards.

Note that in the CEO in all these cases didn’t necessarily drive the initiative from the start. Sure in some cases he did, but in some of the other organisations it took a lot of hard work, convincing and education to get the CEO to understand the importance and impact of data quality. One the best ways to convince a CEO or an executive team of the importance of data quality is to illustrate the impact of bad quality through measures and statistics.

Reporting data quality metrics

All of the successful data quality initiatives employ extensive data quality measuring and reporting. Various key data quality measures are collected and are reported frequently, on many levels throughout the organisation. High level data quality dashboards to inform and keep the executive involved, down to detailed reports, work queues and alerts to keep operational staff motivated and involved.

One of the more interesting comments was that data quality metrics must be designed into the system – be that into the source systems, the BI infrastructure or the reporting and analytics layer. This plays homage to the age old saying – “if you don’t measure it, you can’t manage it”. By monitoring and reporting data quality measures off the respective systems as they are used, it enables the organisation and the business users to much quicker and more reactively work on and correct these data quality problems. A related quote that is very relevant in this context is “Design beats discipline”. This was actually mentioned at another conference on healthcare governance, but it implies that designing and implementing data quality management into the systems and business process is way more effective than instilling disciplines and processes to deal with the data quality issues after the fact.

Involving operational staff

It was really interesting to hear how many of these organisations had clever initiatives involving operational staff to ensure better quality data capture and even post-even data correction. In many other organisations that would be treated as culture shock, counter-productive, a no-go zone. But these guys took the challenge on and implemented reward programs, competitions, coffee vouchers data quality cups and so on. I mean for a large insurance organisation to get independent brokers and agents operating in remote areas to pay attention to data quality, takes some doing. One hospital group even have data quality corrections pop up as work tasks on operational hospital staff’s inboxes as workflow tasks – if you can get nurses and other overly-busy patient caring staff to pay attention to data quality, even getting data errors as low as 2$, you are definitely doing something right.

Similar to the executive level, it takes a lot of communication and education to implement and get the buy-in from staff to cooperate. One large multi-national insurance organisation has gone so far as to include data quality on every new employee’s induction program.

An interesting fun aspect was that many of these programs had their own branding, with mascots, intranet pages and so forth within the organisation. One organisation is looking at the gaming industry to get ideas how to bring a fun and excitement aspect in to achieve better data quality outcomes.

Long-running programs

These successes didn’t come overnight. Most of these are very long-running programs, three, four or even more years in the making. The multi-national insurance company I referred to have a revolving CEO position – with the data quality program running much longer than that, it has to constantly coax, mentor and educate from the top throughout the organisation down to the induction programs to get everyone on the same page.

Concluding remarks

During one of the panel discussions the question of CIO vs CDO came up. Regular readers will know this is a pet topic of mine. I am very glad to report that one of the esteemed panellists also commented that the job titles of most CIOs and CDOs are the wrong way round. One of the speakers also shortly thereafter mentioned that most organisations’ CIOs are in fact not CIOs, they are IT managers, referring to both what they do as part of their daily job and their activity and involvement at the board level.

Of course there were discussions on data quality frameworks. It won’t be a data management or data quality event if there weren’t frameworks… If you want to see really nice diagrams of really useful data quality frameworks, and hear how they have been implemented – you better attend next year’s event!

The event’s program, listing the speakers, topics and panellists can be found by clicking here..

 

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