The Data Quality Conundrum

In a sign of just how messy and inaccurate the data floating throughout businesses really is, one out of four organizations isn't able to identify its best customers and best-selling products. The statistic, which comes from new research conducted on behalf of address-verification company Experian QAS, underscores a fundamental flaw: Many organizations still neglect to view caring for data as a mission-critical business process. The research also shows that 55 percent of organizations either said they didn't have a data strategy or weren't aware of one.

Fortunately, growth in the data management market may help combat this failing. According to industry research giant Gartner, the market for database management software increased by more than 24 percent in 2008. And in Experian QAS's survey of more than 2,000 data management personnel, two-thirds of respondents who assessed their investments in data-quality initiatives over the previous six months indicated an intention to match or increase those investments in the coming six months.

Joel Curry, chief operating officer for Experian QAS, says that this apparent commitment to data quality is a sign not only of a maturing market, but of a larger trend as well. "We've been seeing this big shift from customer acquisition to customer retention and knowing your customer base," Curry says. "Fortunately, it accelerates the interest in data quality up to [the] board level."

There may be good reason for the heightened interest in improving data quality. Only half of all organizations trust that their customer data is clean, accurate, and up-to-date, according to the Experian QAS results. (On a departmental level, sales professionals are surprisingly the most trusting of data, whereas those involved in CRM, marketing, and data management are less trusting.)

The report shows three key factors contrbute to this lack of trust in customer data:

  1. inadequacies in relevant technology;
  2. insufficient budgets; and
  3. inadequate data strategy.

During a presentation at Gartner's BI Summit in March, Gartner analyst Ted Friedman spoke to this point. "Despite lots of tools, big investments, many reports, and large data warehouses, without data quality decision-making is still largely a gamble," he stated. "Data is…not only an IT problem. If you look at it [as only that], you're going to fail."

Unfortunately, Curry says, the blame for faulty data too often falls on the technology department anyway, regardless of whether the data is entered by a customer via the Web or by a contact center agent. One reason for the misplaced blame, he says, can be traced to another insight from the Experian QAS research: the fact that 20 percent of business executives have no idea what's going on with their data quality initiatives. Curry says those companies have not recognized the true importance of data quality -- or the significant return on investment (ROI) that a successful data-quality implementation can deliver.

So what will make data quality a business priority? Curry suggests a three-step approach:

  • Tie the project into the corporate agenda.
  • Frame the project in terms of customer retention.
  • Aim to deliver ROI within one year.

News relevant to the customer relationship management industry is posted several times a day on destinationCRM.com, in addition to the news section Insight that appears every month in the pages of CRM magazine. You may leave a public comment regarding this article by clicking on "Comments" at the top; to contact the editors, please email editor@destinationCRM.com.

CRM Covers
for qualified subscribers
Subscribe Now Current Issue Past Issues

Related Articles

DataFlux Takes the Lead in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Data Quality Tools

Magic Quadrant for Data Quality Tools '10: IBM, Informatica, Trillium and SAP BusinessObjects follow the leader in the research firm's annual evaluation of the market.

A New Leader Emerges in Gartner Magic Quadrant for MDM for Customer Data

Gartner Magic Quadrant for MDM for Customer Data '09: As vendors continue to invest in master data management initiatives, Initiate Systems joins IBM and Oracle in this year's top segment.

The New Qualities of Trillium's Data Quality

The Harte-Hanks software division's Version 12 refreshes real-time validation capabilities, business-rules sharing, and dashboard interfaces.

Business as Usual within Gartner Magic Quadrant for Data Quality Tools

Magic Quadrant for Data Quality Tools '09: Five leading vendors hold their ground, despite a slight slip by SAP.

Siperian Directs Business Users to Master Data

The MDM vendor releases a new application to empower business issues with data management.

Data Quality Best Practices Boost Revenue by 66 Percent

Research by SiriusDecisions also shows that faulty marketing intelligence has a comparably huge negative effect.

The Quality Is Missing in Data Quality

Integration of marketing and sales data is still the biggest challenge facing businesses; a survey at DM Days reveals that companies have tuned out the breakdown-the-silos mantra.

Dirty Little Data Secrets

CRM's real truth requires enterprises to clean up -- reorganize -- customer information with data integration solutions, Web-services technology that integrates data applications.

Informatica Joins Leaders in Gartner's Data Quality Magic Quadrant

Others in the top category are DataFlux, Business Objects, Harte-Hanks Trillium Software, and IBM; expect to see increased M&A activity as smaller, international players make their presence felt.

DataFlux Has the Edge in Gartner's Magic Quadrant on Data Quality Tools

Magic Quadrant for Data Quality Tools '08: Business Objects, IBM, Informatica, and Harte-Hanks' Trillium Software join the SAS Institute unit in the top box.

Buyer's Guide Companies Mentioned