There was an excellent discussion over at Henrik Liliendahl Sørensen’s ( @hlsdk ) blog recently where a debate opened up over whether the concept of data quality should be best likened to a journey or a destination. The more commonly recognised metaphor is that data quality is indeed a journey, however John Owens ( @JohnIMM ) argued that, in fact, data quality is actually a destination. His point being that in considering it an endless journey would in fact be akin to giving “DQ practitioners, and their grandchildren, a job for life”. He stressed that “Quality data should be created as an integral part of doing business day-to-day”. Now I admitted that I could logically agree with both sides of the argument; historically the quest for data quality was likened to a journey to convey the concept that you need to continue to work in order to maintain quality. However I can also see the danger in creating a data quality ‘cottage industry’ which can actually hamper the evolution of a quality improvement culture. Why would the business need to concern themselves as much with quality if they knew there was a dedicated function to sort it out for them? In a similar way though I feel that by considering the ‘journey’ over, even though you have successfully ingrained quality practices into day-to-day operations, sends out the wrong message. I would class John’s notion of DQ as part of integral business processes as just one destination of many on a long and somewhat recursive journey. In fact there are numerous journeys each with their own destinations (or perhaps stations is a better term to use, maintaining the concept of a journey). I think the point should be that there is no “final destination”, instead the journeys become smoother, quicker and more pleasant for those travelling.
Contrary to John’s argument regarding “a job for life” I believe maintaining quality data is a job for life. However I completely agree that it is vital that activities transition into integral BAU processes. This though, does not mean that focus on quality improvement can wane. It should be the case that DQ practitioners are able to disembark leaving BAU staff to continue the journey.