Monday, November 26, 2007

Winners and Losers of Data Quality: Nominations

When companies have poor information quality practices, it’s hard to miss. The issues mostly manifest themselves in customer service (CRM) type interactions. As a customer, you may get unwanted or unnecessary contact, too little contact, or you’ll be struck with the feeling that the company doesn’t know you at all during a transaction. It’s more difficult to notice companies with good data quality practices. It’s more a good feeling you get when you do business with them. Good customer service, powered by proper data governance is becoming, more and more, an expected modus operandi.

Starting with this week’s blog entry, I’m going to nominate companies who either exemplify to me the epitome of good data governance with thumbs up, or show signs of data governance inefficiencies with thumbs down.

Thumbs Up: MGM Mirage Resorts and Casinos

I traveled often to Las Vegas in 2007 for industry trade shows, staying at hotels in the MGM system like Mandalay Bay and Monte Carlo, and those outside the MGM system like Caesars Palace. Depending upon who made the reservations for the trip, there were slight variations in my name and/or e-mail address that naturally occur.

Still, I am quite satisfied with the apparent knowledge that MGM has about me. They seem to understand that, as I am not exactly a high roller, discounted rooms and free buffets are appropriate offers for me. I don’t get duplicate e-mails and direct mail pieces from them, even though there was ample opportunity for those types of things to happen this year. The marketing materials that I get from them seem like a service, not at all a bother.

Nicely done, MGM. I’ll be back to bet the daily double at Monmouth some time soon.

Thumbs Down: Hewlett-Packard

Conversely, from my perspective, HP seems to have a data governance problem. Every quarter or so, HP sends me a catalog, listing home office store products. But every catalog comes in duplicate. Sometimes two, sometimes more. This time, one of the catalogs says that I'm "Steve Sarsfield" and the other calls me "Steven Sarsfield". For some reason, the one addressed to Steven also has a line that identifies the street that intersects my address. Not sure why, since that doesn't have anything to do with my official postal address.

So, I'm going to throw some numbers at you HP. Let's say conservatively, you send out 500,000 catalogs each quarter. Let's estimate that 20% of your database contains duplicates - a fairly conservative number. Finally, I'm going to estimate the catalog postage and printing costs at $1 ea.

That would be 20% of 500,000 = 100,000 catalogs that you send unnecessarily. At $1 each, that's $100,000 per mailing wasted. You mail it every quarter? 4 x $100,000 = $400,000 per year.

I know margins on computer hardware are very slim these days. How many computers do you have to sell to add $400k directly to the bottom line? In this one division in this very large company, there seems to be inefficiencies.

Besides that, it’s mildly irksome to receive duplicate catalogs – just more paper that I have to make sure goes into the recycle bin and not into a landfill.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’ve been very, very happy with my HP printer and PC. Heed this, HP. Despite making some of the best products in the world, I believe that poor data governance is stealing away your goodwill.


Unknown said...

I think the difference between these two shows the value they put in each customer. For Mirage each customer is potentially a big spender and repeat visitor. For HP a large number of customers buy a consumer item without much brand loyalty from a very wide selection and HP don't need to get to know the customer as well. They don't know the customer and that's reflected in the DQ.

Steve Sarsfield said...

Good point, Vincent. We may be looking at an intended business decision here. In HP’s world, everyone is a customer, so the mindset might be to have no limits on mass mailings. In MGM’s world, the top 2% of their customers make the bulk of their revenue, so it’s especially important to understand the customer. Even so, there are consequences to the bottom line that are hard to ignore.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
John Harper said...


My company already owns IBM Quality Suite. It's a mystery to us because no one really knows which department bought it :)... we have to renew our licenses to use it.

Anyway, we use Data Integrator here for all of our ETL (other than PL/SQL, Perl, Java Adhoc stuff). We have seriously looked at DQXI because of its "seemless" integration with DI.

If it was your choice, would you renew the IBM product or buy DQXI?

Steve Sarsfield said...

John, most of these decisions require a little more digging than a short paragraph. I'd want to understand both short term and long term business goals and then build a solution to meet them.
Also, there are a couple of "Data Integrators" out there. Pervasive, Business Objects, and Oracle all have products by those names, which amazingly all do similar things. So, I'd need clarification on that.
However, ask yourself - do you plan to continue to do mostly ad-hoc cleansing or are you planning to make information quality more strategic? Are you happy with the results from Quality Suite? Are you planning to integrate data globally, or is this a US-only initiative? Etc.
Before buying anything, I’d consider a little introspection first. Try to think less technical and more strategic. If you could bring together the right mix of technology and business experience to build a plan, build a process and work through the politics of data governance, it would be huge for the Church. Where do your leaders want to go with information, both long term and short term?
I admit, I do have a bias toward Trillium Software, since they employ me. Trillium Software has a growing business around the business strategy of data governance. These programs are run by an arm of our professional services team called strategic services, and they have helped open up communications between IT and management on the topic of data management. Whether you do this with us, or with your systems integrator, it’s well worth it. Holding a data quality workshop to align your business needs with your information quality needs would be my recommendation.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here are my own and don't necessarily reflect the opinion of my employer. The material written here is copyright (c) 2010 by Steve Sarsfield. To request permission to reuse, please e-mail me.