Is data the CIO's responsibility?

The challenge of maintaining high-quality data has been around since the proliferation of the database, but it is still an issue that affects a wide variety of businesses and the public sector, writes Colin Ricard of DataFlux.

The challenge of maintaining high-quality data has been around since the proliferation of the database, but it is still an issue that affects a wide variety of businesses and the public sector, writes Colin Ricard of DataFlux

Analyst Gartner estimates that 25% of data held by Fortune 1000 organisations is still inaccurate and not fit for purpose. This can lead to a multitude of business problems such as an inability to understand customers, problems with the supply chain, and failure to meet legislation such as the third EU Fraud Act and the Data Protection Act 1998.

To accomplish these goals, there must be recognition that data is a strategic asset. Just like products, buildings and intellectual property, data is key to the success of an organisation.

Whose job?

But whose responsibility is it to guarantee the effectiveness of corporate data?

Traditionally, the problem has rested with the CIO and the IT department. After all, IT departments manage the systems through which data is shared and moved, such as data warehouses and ERP and CRM applications. However, in recent years there has been an acknowledgement that data quality is a problem that requires IT and the business users of the data to collaborate.

For example, if a company is managing large volumes of customer data, it needs to involve business users from the marketing department who fully understand how a customer record must look, how it should be standardised or deduplicated and which data fields are most applicable to the objectives of the organisation. In other organisations the IT department may have to work closely with the procurement team to define rules to manage supplier and product data.

Data stewards

This challenge has resulted in a proliferation of new job titles, and it's now common to see organisations appointing data stewards to define business rules to ensure data is fit for purpose. There is now a recognition by many sectors that garbage in will result in garbage out.

Data management is an end-to-end process rather than a case of replacing an inappropriate database or application. Data must be investigated at every point of entry to the company, and end-users must be aware of, and adhere to, data policies centrally defined by key business stakeholders.

Colin Rickard is managing director for west and north Europe at DataFlux

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This was last published in May 2008

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