What The Data Quality Industry can learn from Philip Crosby
Philip Crosby was the quality guru of the 20th century. In 1979 he published the book, Quality is Free, which was a runaway success. Much of the wisdom within it is relevant to data quality issues.
Emphasis on Prevention
Crosby puts the focus squarely on preventing quality issues, rather than on reviewing and discovering errors and then fixing them. In data language, that means using merge purge software and data cleansing software on all imported data. Crosby would surely have approved of data governance projects and having data champions or stewards to keep staff dedicated to data quality. Here are some quotes about quality from his book.
We must define quality as “conformance to requirements” if we are to manage it. If data is collected randomly, you will soon be overwhelmed by it. When your data has a purpose you can set the rules to which it must conform.
Why spend all this time finding and fixing and fighting when you could prevent the incident in the first place? This question can be asked of a number of business areas, but it is particularly relevant to data.
Prevention is not hard to do. It is just hard to sell. Sometimes the hardest job of the IT department is to sell the idea of investing in prevention to the budget holder. Hopefully Crosby will give you some fuel for your arguments.
The Role of Management
Fundamental to the Crosby philosophy is that the objective should always be to get things right first time, and this depends on leadership and good management practices. Here are some quotes about management from the book.
What should be obvious from the outset is that people perform to the standards of their leaders. So everyone in the business should know the data standards required, and the rules for record conformation. This should be policed by order of the senior management. If you don’t have commitment to clean data at the top, you won’t get commitment through the hierarchy.
Management has to get right in there and be active when it comes to quality. It’s no good paying lip service. You have to put some money where your mouth is and make sure your staff have the matching software and the address correction software to do a quality job on your data. This small investment will reap extravagant rewards in a very short time when you are making decisions on information you can trust and you have perfect customer records.