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Why businesses need to be picky about their data quality

Paul Newman Archive

In a recent post for the Obsessive-Compulsive Data Quality blog, Jim Harris discusses the famous request made by former Van Halen singer David Lee Roth. When the band was touring, Roth would check backstage to make sure the concert promoters had removed all the brown M&Ms from a bowl of the chocolate candies, as was outlined in the contract for the show.  

While it seemed like a fickle demand, the "No Brown M&Ms Clause" was not just a way to gain publicity or avoid certain shades of candies, Harris explains. It was a quality control measure. If the brown M&Ms had not been removed, there was a much greater chance that the entire contract had not been read and that other provisions might have been ignored. And there was much more to lose if a stage wasn't built to withstand the weight of the band's equipment, or sound systems were incorrectly connected. 

Do you have data quality problems?
Companies that are harvesting data should take the same precautions if they want their outcomes to be flawless and generate positive ROI. IT leaders or data professionals should preform spot checks to determine whether they are running tight ships or clumsy businesses, according to a recent post for the Musings of a Data Geek blog. There are a number of signs that indicate a firm may need to clean up it data quality act, the source reports.

- Lack of data ownership
- Cross-departmental misunderstandings
- Confusion about the impact of changes to data

If individuals on the business and customer service sides find they cannot agree on straightforward figures, such as the number of clients that converted in the third quarter, businesses might need to take a closer look at the content in their databases, the article explains.

What are data quality costs?
Companies that don't understand the costs of having poor quality might also be vulnerable to inaccurate information. Mental Floss recently reported that even seemingly innocent typos can have severe consequences. The top mistake involved the launch of America's first interplanetary probe, the Mariner 1. A single missing hyphen in the code caused the aircraft to take off at the wrong speed and trajectory, resulting in an $80 million mistake. 

The stakes aren't always that high for most data users, but the results can be just as damaging. If a marketing campaign is launched without running the contact list through an address management program, businesses can lose out on much-needed revenue.