Monday, November 12, 2007

MIT's Information Quality Program

I just attended MIT's 12th International Conference on Information Quality in Cambridge this weekend. I have to say that I am amazed and delighted how informed the industry is getting about data quality. As I sat through each of the 20 minute talks, it became clear who was more theoretical than practical.... who were the presenters who were throwing it out there and trying to sell it, and those who have done it. Based on the Q&A sessions, the attendees understood this as well. The industry is getting smarter about how to get funding for and implement data quality.
You want an example? I sat in on a case study that BT (British Telecom) delivered by Nigel Turner and Dave Evans. Good guys and funny as they peppered in insults to each other as part of their shtick. Anyway, talk about amazing returns on investment. Back in 2003, BT realized that much of their investment in new enterprise application was being hurt by poor data quality. Nigel and Dave were part of a team that was able to sell the impact of information quality by selling the ROI. The key seems to be to talk about what will happen if you institute good data quality practices, but also include, as they say, the "do nothing" option. What will happen to the data if we continue down a path and do nothing about information quality on any given project? How much will it cost in 1 year, 3 years, or 5 years. That's a good strategy to take when delivering your data quality investment presentation to corporate. Fear, uncertainty and doubt always takes you far.

BT tracked ROI and their data governance initiative and was able to show hundreds of millions of dollars (or British pounds) worth of savings and benefit. Wow! Fantastic stuff.

This is one of the more academic venues for researching data quality, and therefore less commercial. The presentations were interesting in that they often gave you another perspective on the problem of data quality. Some of the information were clearly cutting edge, but I sat in on a couple of sessions that flashed up theoretical formulas for calculating data quality. Yup, that's nice, but when it comes to convincing your boss that you need to invest in DQ, they don't generally want to relive calculus class. Rather, they want to know how it'll effect me and my company. That's how you'll get the funding you'll need for the task at hand. BT had it right.
I talked briefly to Rich Wang, who is the founder and face of the MIT IQ program. He mentioned the possibility of speaking at the July event in Cambridge, and I'm excited by the prospect of it all. I have many ideas... many ideas...

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