Data quality vendors missing the mark, study finds

Traditional areas of focus represent only a small part of user needs

There are many opportunities for vendors in the data quality space to create tools that cover a broader scope, yet many of those opportunities remain untapped, according to an analyst. Andy Hayler, president and CEO of UK-based analyst firm The Information Difference, says most data quality software vendors focus on traditional niche areas like name and address type tools for customer and supplier records. But that represents only a small part of end user needs, he says. "Vendors have opportunities to educate the world about data quality because there is an awful lot of ignorance around this area," he says. A recent study on data quality by The Information Difference revealed that respondents view data quality as something that is not restricted to one area within the organisation. Instead, two-thirds of respondents said it is an issue spanning the entire organisation. The survey, commissioned by location intelligence vendor Pitney Bowes Insight and data management vendor Silver Creek Systems, polled 200 companies in North America and Europe, almost half of which had revenues of US$1 billion. Eighty-one percent of respondents reported being focused on a broader scope than merely customer name and address data. Twelve percent said they did in fact hold that slim focus. Moreover, the survey also found that when placed in order of importance, respondents did not rate customer name address data the highest. Instead, product (inventory) and financial (accounting figures) data were deemed a greater priority. Yet, the vast majority of tools only focus on customer name and address data, notes Hayler. "That said to me that there is an opportunity for vendors to address a broader range of data," he says. The study also delved into opinions on how data quality fit with master data management (MDM), or the quest for a single version of the truth across an organisation's data. One-fifth of respondents felt data quality is a prerequisite to an MDM initiative and wanted to see more vendor offerings integrating those two areas. Hayler says one would expect vendor partnerships between the areas of data quality and MDM, and that is precisely what is currently happening in the industry. The issue for lack of attention to data quality by MDM vendors, says Hayler, is that traditionally these vendors have focused on building systems that digest data quickly, only to later realise such systems were useless if the data being input was bad. Fifty-one per cent of respondents believed all was well with data quality, while only a quarter thought it was poor. Yet, only about a third of respondents had a data quality programme in place. Another third had plans to implement a programme within the next year to three years. Ted Morawiec, president & CEO of e-Net, a Toronto-based performance management system vendor, said measuring data quality can be tricky because it entails a human element. "It is not [just] software and hardware that is the expenditure," said Morawiec. "It's the people and the process that it is improving." Things like improvements in productivity must be measured, said Morawiec. It's essentially business activity monitoring, he said, and is a relatively new concept for executive management to digest.

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