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Analysis

What business users can do about data quality
Fern Halper By: Dr Fern Halper, Partner, Hurwitz & Associates
Published: 6th December 2007
Copyright Hurwitz & Associates © 2007
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Many business people have, on occasion, looked at a performance report or chart and asked themselves, "Does this information make sense?"

This question might cause the user to trace the results back through their data sources or get IT involved to doing the same thing. In most cases, the trouble with the information comes down to data quality. Poor data quality can cost a company huge amounts of money. It can hide important trends or reveal invalid ones, it can irritate customers when their details are incorrect on marketing literature and, in some circumstances, it can cause brand damage. It is an issue that business users as well as IT should be concerned about.

Unfortunately, more often than not, data quality is viewed as simply an infrastructure issue. Cognos and Informatica hope to change this perception.

Cognos and Informatica extend their partnership

Recently, Cognos and Informatica announced an expansion of their strategic partnership with the introduction of a new performance management-data quality offering. The new offering enables business users to apply Cognos performance management software in conjunction with Informatica's data quality and profiling tools to help companies increase confidence in company data and reduce costs associated with poor data quality. Data quality metrics from Informatica are now shown in a performance management format.

What does this mean?

Consider the scenario where a business user is looking at sales performance for the last four quarters. A new product was introduced in the current quarter and the performance goal was to increase overall sales by 5%. The information in the report indicates an increase in Q4 sales of 10%. This result is suspicious—it appears too large—and the business user wants to investigate.

Using the combined Cognos/Informatica offering, the business user can drill down from the performance management system to view data quality metrics generated by Informatica. For example, the problem might be a consolidation issue—product revenue from the new product was, perhaps, double counted.

Rather than going to IT or trying to piece together the data themselves, the business user has identified the problem and can create an action item for the data analyst in IT to fix the issue. The end result is accurate data for strategic and tactical planning purposes, a faster remediation process, and potential cost savings—for example on commissions paid to sales people selling the new product.

The Cognos/Informatica offering itself consists of process and technology. It begins with a Cognos Data Quality Rapid Assessment; a maximum five day quick evaluation of a sample of a company's data to look for any potential quality problems. It could also include an Informatica data quality audit to look at more data as well as an Informatica data quality baseline deployment to help companies get started with the data quality product. It is being targeted to mid market and larger companies.

Why is this offer significant?

The goal of the offering is to expose the data quality issue at the business level. Cognos is betting that there is value in engaging the business user in understanding the impact of poor data quality. Cognos is also looking to differentiate itself from competitors such as Business Objects, which has recently acquired data quality capabilities, by elevating the message. Partner Informatica is a good choice in this since its data quality and profiling products have always had a strong business user focus. The offering is unique. The only question is whether business users really feel that data quality is their issue, and this will no doubt vary with the information maturity level of a company.

Hurwitz & Associates believes that the offer is valuable and would like to see it gain traction in the marketplace. It's time for business users to move past paying lip service to data quality and do something real about it.

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Published by: IT Analysis Communications Ltd.
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