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System Evaluation Series, Part 6: The Flawed Foundation of Data Integrity

Last week, the conversation with "Dave," who is guiding us through the business management system evaluation for his manufacturing company, took a different turn. Data integrity, in terms of both the present and the future, has come to the forefront as a foundational challenge the business must address.

On the surface, data integrity may not sound like a subject pertinent to a marketing advice blog. But as a fundamental problem that every company struggles with, data integrity is a message (mostly painful) of interest to every business decision maker.

Threats, Costs and Pyramids
As Dave was working with the system evaluation team and vendors, he started thinking about business data, information systems and processes in a different light. He developed a pyramid to help the evaluation team put data and systems in perspective.

The pyramid is composed of three tiers:

  • Bottom: "Data integrity, navigation and screen configuration issues."
  • Middle: "Process information flow and integration issues."
  • Top: "Strategic issues including future revenue streams, business models, governance and intelligence."

Dave sees both the "Threat to the Organization" and the "Cost to Solve" as increasing from bottom to top.

To guide the understanding of the application of the pyramid to the evaluation process, Dave made observations on the importance of each of the tiers:

  • "We have to solve the lower level [data integrity] of the pyramid regardless of software package or we will simply move the problem around."
  • "The middle [process and integration] problems can be solved in a number of different ways."
  • "Talking and understanding more about the top of the pyramid [business strategy] will heavily influence how the middle gets solved."

The Foundation of Data Integrity
Regardless of the direction that the company goes, the bottom tier issues of data integrity, navigation and screen configuration have to be addressed for the company to really improve operations. Every partner can relate to these challenges based on their years of data migration work. Garbage in, garbage out.

Dave's plan to deal with the issue is to define a new role and hire a document control specialist whose sole purpose will be governance of data for their information systems. As Dave noted, "In my mind, it's one of the hidden opportunities. When you have a 12-and-a-half million dollar payroll, how much of those employees' time is wasted because they can't find things? If you look at the cost of a $70,000 information governance specialist to keep information where is it supposed to's a bargain."

Many companies deal with the data integrity issue at migration time and depend on hope and the new system to keep it clean. As data and its importance to business strategy continues to expand, the opportunity to help customers plan for information governance grows.

Lessons Learned
Understanding the buying process is the first step in building meaningful marketing content to educate and support prospects. Data integrity and data governance aren't as fun to talk about as the latest functionality in SharePoint or CRM, but they are a vexing -- and often ignored -- problem for every business decision maker.

Get the attention of managers with content that lets them know that they are not alone -- everyone shares the problem -- and that you can help them find a solution with:

  • a page on your Web site dedicated to data integrity and governance best practices,
  • an article or whitepaper on managing data (the title could be "Why Bad Data Happens to Good Companies"), or
  • a slide in your PowerPoint titled "Is Bad Data Causing You Trouble?" that will have prospects nodding in agreement.

How do you educate prospects on the importance of data quality? Add a comment below or send me a note and let's share the knowledge.

More from This Series:

Posted by Barb Levisay on June 21, 2012