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War on want. War on drugs. War on terror. Have these wars eliminated want, drugs and terror? No. Some would argue, quite the opposite.I-want-you-war-on-data-v02

There are two main reasons for this, both allied to the human condition. The first is based on a phenomenon first observed by Carl Jung, that made him coin the term, “what you resist persists”. He arrived at this conclusion after years of observing that, when people put a lot of energy into suppressing or resisting a negative behavior or trait that, instead of disappearing, it persists and, in many instances, grows worse.

The second reason is a little darker. Imagine that tomorrow all of the agencies that have been set up around the world to fight drugs and terror could, with the wave of a magic wand, bring an end to all drug wars and acts of terror and, as a result of doing this, they could dismantle themselves and free up all of their personnel to do something else with their lives. Imagine this and then tell me, do you think that they would wave the wand and make it happen?

So It Is With the War on Bad Data

The same human traits and conditioning are at play in every enterprise. Because of this, if the means by which you have decided to eliminate bad data in your enterprise is to declare ‘war’ on it, then be aware that the situation will not significantly improve, that the financial spend will continue to grow and the number of departments and teams set up wage war on bad data will not only become in integral part of the establishment, they will grow and multiply!!!

How many such teams and departments do you have already? Data quality, data governance, data management, master data management, metadata management? More will be created. Big data and data alignment are already on their way.

What’s The Alternative?

The rationale that drives the ‘war’ on bad data is based on the same logic and thinking that has lead to the creation of all of the bad data in the in the enterprise in first place and, as Einstein points out, ‘no problem can ever be solved using the same logic that created it in the first place.’

So, an entirely new approach is needed. Enterprises need to forget about warring against bad data and concentrate instead on creating only good data.  Let’s face it, if they didn’t create any bad data they will have no need to wage war on it!!!

To some people this idea will be incomprehensible; as incomprehensible as sending a man into space would have seemed only a hundred years Data_warriorago.  However, creating zero data defects is far simpler than mounting a space shot.  It needs no new technology and it actually costs far less than creating defective data and then trying to find and remove it.

All it needs is for enterprises to make it easier and more beneficial for people to get data right first time than it is to get it wrong. All of the resources required for this already exist. It just needs imagination and creative design to apply them properly.

Letting Go

One of the main barriers to bringing this essential mind shift about is that so many people do not want to give up the war. Some, because they find it hard to understand and accept that ‘waging war’ is a failed approach. Others enjoy the battle too much; they actually find an identity in the battle that gives them meaning – the data warrior – and they will not let go of this, no matter what price the enterprise has to pay.

Working Together

If you would like to work with me and discover ways in which your enterprise can give up its war on bad data and instead achieve the high quality data that will enable it to thrive at far less stress and cost, then contact me now.

One Response to “Waging War on Bad Data? Give Up. You’ll lose!”

  1. Milan Kucera

    Dear John,

    again, it is very important article and I think the topic is very current. Many organization declare “war” on bad data and one of the pills is a cycle profiling + cleansing. Now on the scene is “data governance” which is very often taken and understood as program, system, etc.

    You wrote at this article that reaching “zero defect” at level of data is not so complicated. I do not fully agree with this statement. Here are some reasons why:

    1) “Zero defect” is close to validity of data only and validity itself does not ensure “accuracy to reality”
    2) Information depreciate over time and business processes must be able to handle this reality
    3) People provide so quality to which they are trained
    4) Information processor quite often do not ask itself: Who depends on my information? To whom do I depend on?
    5) Awarding system is an other issue. Mostly people are awarded based on quantity and quality, which plays important role especially at the place where information is created, updated, etc.
    6) Barriers between business areas has as well negative impacts at quality of information…..

    Simply we are talking about the culture inside the organization. To me we will be able to fight poor quality information only if we change the culture inside the organization.

    And the care about a high quality information should be a goal of so called “information based” (P. Drucker) organizations. If we will take information as an asset, than its value increases by:
    a) maximizing of sharing information
    b) accuracy of information
    c) maximizing the use of information.

    I think there is much more we must to do to ensure high quality information.


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