What I Learned About Data Quality From Vacation

Over the 12 hours it took us to get from NY to the beaches of North Carolina, I had plenty of time to contemplate how our vacation was going to go. I mentally planned our week out and tried to anticipate what would be the best ways for us to ‘relax’ as a family. What relaxes me – is not having to clean up.  So to facilitate this, I set about implementing a few ‘business rules’ so that we could manage our mess in real-time, which I knew deep down, would be better for everyone.  The irony of this, as it relates to my role as the Director of Marketing for a Data Quality company did not escape me but I didn’t realize there would be fodder for a blog post in here until I realized business rules actually can work. Really and truly. This is how.

1. We Never Got Too Comfortable.

We were staying in someone else’s house and it wasn’t our stuff. So it dawned on me that we take much more liberty with our own things than we apparently do with someone else’s and I believe this applies to data as well. Some departments feel like they are the ‘owners’ of specific data. I know from direct experience that marketing, in many cases, takes responsibility for customer contact data, and as a result, we often take liberties knowing ‘we’ll ‘remember what we changed’ or ‘we can always deal with it later’. The reality is, there are lots of other people who use and interact with that data and each business user would benefit from following a “Treat It Like It’s Someone Else’s” approach.

2. Remember the Buck Stops With You.

In our rental, there was no daily cleaning lady and we didn’t have the freedom of leaving it messy when we left (in just a mere 7 days). So essentially, the buck stopped with us. Imagine how much cleaner your organization’s data would be if each person who touched it took responsibility for leaving it in good condition. Business rules that communicate to each user that they will be held accountable for the integrity of each data element along with clarity on what level of maintenance is expected, can help develop this sense of responsibility.

3. Maintain a Healthy Sense of Urgency.

On vacation, we had limited time before we’d have to atone for any messy indiscretions. None of us wanted to face a huge mess at the end of the week so it made us more diligent about dealing with it on the fly. To ‘assist’ the kids with this, we literally did room checks and constantly reminded each other that we had only a few days left – if they didn’t do it now, they’d have to do it later. Likewise, if users are aware that regular data audits will be performed and that they will be the ones responsible for cleaning up the mess, the instinct to proactively manage data may be just a tad stronger.

So when it comes to vacation (and data quality), there is good reason not to put off important cleansing activities that can be made more manageable by simply doing them regularly in small batches.