Thursday, 25 February 2010

The First Step on your Data Quality Roadmap

You may be about to embark on an exciting Data Quality initiative, full of enthusiasm and armed with the belief that you can change organisational culture and save the business from poor data quality.

In order to effectively roll out policies and procedures you may be brainstorming, and then formalising, a Data Quality Roadmap.

What is a Data Quality Roadmap?

It's a strategic enabler.

It allows you to combine your short-term and long-term goals.

It's a framework for progress.

It helps you to co-ordinate people, process and technology, and enables you to communicate where you are, and where you're heading, in a digestible and measurable way.

Sounds great, where should I start?

As George Santayana once wrote:

"Those who are unaware of history are destined to repeat it"

With this quote in mind, I would propose that the first step on any Data Quality Roadmap would be to understand what DQ improvement/management initiatives have previously been undertaken within your organisation.
  • Who was responsible for previous initiatives?
  • What processes & procedures have previously been implemented?
  • Where did they succeed or fail?
  • When did previous initiatives take place?
  • Why did they succeed or fail?
  • How were they received by the business?
Learn lessons from what has happened before, and use this historical analysis as a basis to implement strategic changes within how Data Quality is tackled in the future.

How will this exercise aid the future?

On your roadmap there may be an item such as "work with the business to create a common dictionary". Such an item may cause someone in the business to state: "We tried this before, and it didn't work".

Using the information gathered from our historical analysis of previous DQ initiatives, we can attempt to get to the root cause of why it didn't work. We can work with the business, gather their opinions, and move forward to creating a solution that does work. A solution which increases business confidence and allows us to achieve our strategic goals.


kenoconnordata said...


Thanks for this great advice.

There may be many reasons why a past initiative failed - but the overriding memory is that "it failed".

Perception is reality. If the perception of "the business" is "This won't work" because "We tried this before, and it didn't work", you will have to change that perception - or face failure with your project.

Thanks again for the advice Phil - perhaps you could suggest "probable causes of past failure with "why this time will be different" ?


Phil Wright said...


Perception is very important, and you're right people don't tend to remember the details, just the outcome. A negative outcome can impact any future initiatives. How will you get the support of the business if they already believe that it won't work as it didn't work before?

Very good idea on the suggestion, I'll tackle some examples in a future post!


Charles Blyth said...

Great post Phil,

I always find that the most surefire way of overcomiing the "This won't work" because "We tried this before, and it didn't work" argument is proof. Define the roadmap and then start small, get small wins and show off the success.



Phil Wright said...


Small wins to show off the success is a good approach. If you can demonstrate success, even with a small win, you are more likely to gain the business support and confidence to aid you in tackling your larger roadmap items.


Garnie Bolling said...

Phil, great article / post. Lots of people jump in with both feet, but forget the Huge potential of lessons learned on previous attempts.

@Ken, you are right on the money.

What I recommend is to get involvement from the business. Collaboration, or as our friend Jim Harris (twitter: OCDQBLOG) coined a new definition of CYA: collaboration yields accountability.

When the leadership team sees that "collaboration" between the teams, and pulling in lessons learned from the past attempts... that becomes the foundation of success.

I still think Collaboration leads to buy in... really... let the business vent, state objections, and work with them to take those objections off the table by addressing them... and then work together to make a better roadmap.

Thanks Phil for the excellent post...

Phil Wright said...


Agreed, people do often forget to utilise knowledge from lessons learned. I'm not sure why, but it's often treated in a black & white way - "it worked before", or "it didn't work before" - without really going into the whys/hows/whats etc.

I think the CYA definition from Jim is great, and you're right, collaboration does lead to buy in, and for a DQ roadmap the more people we have on board, the better.


Phil Simon said...


Good post.

I will never understand why people don't spend more time on this type of stuff before projects go awry. I actually discussed this last night with a friend of mine. When pressed, he said that most of the lawsuits on which he worked could have been avoided with roadmaps and better internal communication prior to the commencement of the project.

Phil Wright said...


That's right, and often even if a roadmap has been drawn up, it isn't, as you suggest, well communicated internally!

People have to be feel involved in order to commit to something, and if a roadmap isn't communicated properly (or the right people weren't involved with devising the roadmap) how can we expect high levels of involvement & commitment?


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