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Convincing data professionals to clean up their acts

Paul Newman

April 4, 2013

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Error-ridden data is a problem for many companies. The majority of firms admit that they suspect their databases contain at least some mistakes and that these inaccuracies negatively impact their bottom lines. While awareness is generally the first step in taking action toward improvement, a recent post in the Data Roundtable Blog explains that it is often difficult for companies to convince their users to clean up their data quality

The best approach to inspiring change is often to give people a nudge, the article explains. Unlike a mandate that coerces people to change their behavior in order to avoid penalties, a creative nudge alters decision-making processes to achieve a desired result without limiting individuals' options or imposing a mandate. 

The "Don't Mess with Texas" campaign that was introduced to curb littering in the Lone Star State is an example of a creative nudge, the source adds, and it was effective. Within six years, visible litter was reduced by 72 percent, according to Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein, authors of the book "Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness." While a campaign based on commercials featuring popular figures may not be as effective within the data community, the blog suggests that there are other ways to give users a similar nudge.

One way to demonstrate the importance of using clean data is to recognize its costs.

Harvard Business Review points to a general rule that states, "It costs ten times as much to complete a unit of simple work when the data are flawed in any way as it does when they're perfect."

If leaders demonstrate this value to data creators, users and analysts, they might find that content is run through address management platforms regularly to eliminate inaccuracies. 

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