Data Quality Checkup (1,424 words)
To understand how pervasive an issue data quality is within a direct marketing organization, think back to the old TV commercials: "BASF—We make the things you buy better." As Trish Brothers, product marketing specialist at Firstlogic Inc., La Crosse, WI, explains, "Whether it's marketing activities, marketing results or data mining, data quality makes it better."
As amazing as it may seem, the simple problem of duplicate records is still the number-one data-quality issue. "But it (a dupe) is really a symptom of how well you can match your existing data," Brothers says. For instance, she says, pointing to this writer's name as an example, "If you look at your name in a database as A. Orr and Alicia Orr, how do you know if these are the same?"
Complicating the issue are today's bigger problems like consolidation—pulling key data from disparate sources including different legacy database systems.
Mike Keilen, senior product manager at Firstlogic, points out that data-quality issues probably didn't really come into play until the 1990s when more companies began data warehousing.
"If data quality was a concern at all, it was traditionally regarding outbound mail—not across an enterprise. You'd look at the issue in terms of how accurate is the mail going out from your company," he says, explaining that people obviously were concerned about having the correct addresses to mail.
Now the issue exists at a macro level. Says Keilen, "Businesses have realized they have to become more intimate with their customers and that the mechanism for doing so is through data."
The mobility of the U.S. population is another challenge. Brothers points out, "Since 20 percent of the people move each year, you can surmise that the entire U.S. moves once every five years." Plus, she adds, today not even ZIP and area codes are static.