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Roundup of February news stories

Rachel Wheeler Archive

With each new passing month come exciting advances in the worlds of information mining and data analysis. Organizations of all sizes, in all sectors, are discovering new ways to gather more knowledge about the world around them and put it to good use, making adjustments that can improve their operations.

February was another encouraging month of such progress. People in retail, health and education all played a role in advancing the analytics movement. They did more for data quality and data philosophy than ever before.

Here's a look back at the month that was. Let's run through the headlines.

Overhauling retail analytics
In the retail sector, executives are working to sharpen their strategies by combining the efforts of man and machine. They're using data-driven, mobile technologies to deploy more information about consumers, and then their human sales reps are using that data to deliver better sales pitches.

"There is a growing realization by retailers that the customer is changing, and they need to change with the customer," said Steven Skinner, senior vice president of New Jersey IT firm Cognizant Technology Solutions, according to The Record.

People today demand fast-paced retail customer service, and data quality is the key to delivering it.

Putting small businesses in focus
Who's better at using data - big businesses, or smaller ones? There's a temptation to guess the former, as major corporate leaders have more money and resources to collect information. But there's a growing sentiment today that because small businesses are more in tune with their individual customers' needs, they have a leg up.

1to1 Media recently shed light on this principle. The Chief Marketing Officer Council, in its "Business Traction from Smarter SMB Interaction" study, explained that approximately 36 percent of marketing executives are "looking to improve their SMB-centric experiences." No surprise why - they're looking for higher levels of engagement.

Striving for compliance
In the world of medical devices, there's also a need for higher data quality standards. This is the case because of the Food and Drug Administration's recent release of a "final rule" requiring a unique device identifier on all devices. To meet this standard, companies need to be precise.

This can be complicated, cautions Kelle O'Neal, managing director of First San Francisco Partners, according to Information Management.

"Lack of data quality management results in inconsistent and inaccurate data, which leads to poor decisions," O'Neal stated.

Reforming education
The federal government has a strong desire to improve public education - Democrats and Republicans alike can agree on that. But with a finite budget, it can be difficult to know what Congress can do. According to Inside Higher Ed, high-quality data might be the best way for Washington to invest its precious few dollars. Two U.S Senators - Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) - explained in a recent op-ed.

"Any policy debate should start with a clear picture of how the dollars are being spent and whether that money is achieving the desired outcomes," the senators wrote.

They elaborated that a lack of accurate data often makes it impossible for education leaders to answer even the most basic questions they're grappling with. Something has to be done.

Making data a priority
In all of the above sectors, data quality should be a primary focus moving forward. Ideally, it would be something that everyone within a business cared about, across the board - not merely in the IT department.

According to the Sunday Telegraph, there are still some organizations struggling with this logic. Amit Shah of Guidewire Software says that a greater company-wide focus on quality is important.

"While IT is often tasked with driving data initiatives, it neither creates the data nor uses it in a business context," Shah explained. "As only the business actually creates, uses and understands the data, it is crucial that it must have a significant ownership in the process of validating the data that will fuel the company."

Data quality affects everyone in a professional setting. Therefore, all employees should make it a high priority.