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Is there such a thing as too much data quality?

Paul Newman

June 25, 2013

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Businesses everywhere strive to maintain data quality, collecting massive amounts of information about their surroundings, including their customers, business-to-business climates and the world at large, but that information is worthless unless its owners can verify its accuracy. To that end, corporate leaders are seeking out address management tools and other high-tech solutions that can help them confirm contact information, financial data and other knowledge of the people around them. Quality has become a paramount concern.

Lately, there's been a backlash, though, as some skeptics argue that too much data quality is a bad thing, and companies are overextending themselves to verify their information. Jim Harris of the OCDQ Blog raises an alarming, arguably counterintuitive question - when can worse data quality be better?

Harris compares data to music, positing that beauty is in the eye (or ear) of the beholder. For some people, high-quality sound isn't important, and that's a matter of opinion.

"If your favorite music sounds fine to you in MP3 file format, then not only do you not need vinyl records, audio tapes, and CDs anymore, but if you consider MP3 files good enough, then you will not pay more attention to (or pay more money for) audio data quality," Harris writes.

Is data quality the same way? It's a difficult question to answer. On one hand, companies can get themselves in trouble by spending too much time or money on quality initiatives. On the other hand, the consequences of poor quality can be far worse. Information Management recently explained that poor data quality has become an epidemic in business, and it often leads to poor decision-making by top executives.

Having incorrect data can lead companies to make serious mistakes that harm the future of their enterprises. When it comes to data quality, the skeptics should not have their way.

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