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In a recent post, Vipul Aroh, made the argument that ‘truth’ and data quality were incompatible and supported the Thomas Redman view that seeking one version of the truth in data was a ‘one lie strategy’.  If this were true, then Data Quality would be a completely flawed approach that ought to be abandoned immediately!  Now, although people’s obsession with digital data is flawed in very many ways (more about that in another post), it is not so flawed as to be abandoned.

This is a response that I posted on Vipul’s article (still waiting moderation!):

It is a complete fallacy that their cannot be a single version of the ‘truth’ in an enterprise. In fact, it is crucial that there One version of the truth: one version of the facts!is. When people claim that it cannot be done, what they are really saying is that THEY do not know how to do it.

When an executive asks questions like, “what were our sales last month”, “what monies are we owed” or “what profit did we make last quarter”, then the enterprise systems must be able to provide one totally correct, consistent answer each and every time. These questions are not a matter of opinion and any enterprise that cannot answer them correctly is likely to be in both financial and regulatory trouble.

The ‘truth’ about enterprise operational and financial performance is not a philosophical question, it is a matter of simple arithmetic. For this reason, it would be much better if people talked instead about ‘one version of the facts’. This changes the whole conversation, as nobody with any common sense would argue that it is unreasonable to be able to expect the information systems of an enterprise to be able tell, with absolute certainty, facts such as how many sales were made, how many customers the enterprise has, what the the most profitable products are, etc.

The problem is that, in spite of three decades of commercial computing, most enterprises still have systems that are so badly architected and fragmented that they are incapable of doing the simple arithmetic to answer such fundamental questions. Also, too many data practitioners would rather have pseudo-philosophical discussions about such things as ‘truth’ rather than develop the skills and practices that will provide enterprises with unambiguous facts.

One last thing, these conversations would completely change for the better if people stopped being obsessed about digital data and started to be passionate about real information, which is the lifeblood of all enterprises.

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