Does your data quality still suck?
Years ago Google’s Analytics Evangelist Avinash Kaushik told everyone “data quality sucks, get over it” which at the time was quite the funny and controversial thing to say. Among other things Mr. Kaushik encouraged his readers to “resist the urge to dig deep” to understand data-related problems, to “assume a level of comfort with the data” and to focus more on trends and less on absolutes.
At the time this advice seemed good. Any number of companies were in the midst of switching vendors back in 2006 (a trend that has noticeably declined) and so guidance to not stress out on the differences observed between old system “A” and new system “B” was good, as was his encouragement to spend more time focusing on data quality in key areas (checkout, carts, etc.)
Unfortunately times have changed.
Since 2006 we have seen a slow but steady increase in the prominence that digitally collected data has within businesses of all sizes. Now in 2010, more senior managers, Vice Presidents, and CEOs than ever are incorporating both qualitative and quantitative data collected from web, mobile, and social sites than ever before. Among our clients we have seen a profound shift from “nice to have” to “critical” when it comes to data flowing through Omniture, Coremetrics, Unica, Google Analytics and other systems, and slowly web analytics is becoming an embedded component of business decision making.
While this shift has far reaching implications lately at Analytics Demystified we have been looking more closely at how we can help our clients not “get over” the “suckiness” of data quality and actually do something about it. We are doing this for one simple reason: senior leadership doesn’t want a glib response to data quality issues, they want as high a level of accuracy possible and concrete answers for why that accuracy isn’t forthcoming.
Don’t believe me? The next time your boss asks about the quality of the numbers you produce look them squarely in the eye and repeat Mr. Kaushik’s words, “Well Bob the data quality sucks and so you should just get over it, okay?”
When you’re done you can call my friend Corry Prohens to help you find a new job.
The alternative is, of course, to actually pay attention to your data’s quality and work diligently to incrementally improve data collection processes. Rather than be lazy about the very foundation of all of your valuable work (and the high-quality analysis you’re working to drive into the business) you can do a few simple things designed to make your data “less sucky” and thusly more valuable.
And what are those things? Thanks to our friends at ObservePoint we have authored a short white paper on this exact subject! Titled “When More is Not Better: Page Tags” and subtitled “The Dramatic Proliferation of Script-based Tagging and the Resulting Need for a Chief Data Officer” (okay, not my best title, I admit it) the paper outlines the business processes and technologies required to develop a little more trust and faith in your digitally collected data.
The paper is a free download from ObservePoint but you will need to trade some information with them. I can assure you Rob Seolas and his team are fine folks and given that they have a tendency to send out sweet USB devices to prospects there are worse things than having someone from ObservePoint call.
If you’ve read the paper I welcome your comments. While we recognize that few companies are going to appoint a Chief Data Officer to manage their digital data quality we hope that our readers understand that the point is not the job title but rather the work the associated work. Our thesis is that as the push towards digital continues those companies who have (and can communicate) a high-level of trust in their data will gain a competitive advantage, and in a world where the competition is always only a click away, who doesn’t want every advantage they can create?