To enable information quality in any environment, it is essential to identify the collectors, consumers, and custodians of each item of information and define their responsibilities clearly.
If organizations want to treat information as a product, then they must look at the information manufacturing systems that create the information products. These information manufacturing systems are analogous to a product manufacturing system. In these systems, the raw material or data is acted upon by some processes to produce information products that have value for an information consumer that can exist inside or outside of the organization.
There are various roles that must be performed as part of this information manufacturing system. Four major roles have been defined for Information Quality Management: Information Collector, Information Custodian, Information Consumer (collectively referred to as the “3C’s of Information Quality”), and Information Product Manager. Each of these roles is associated with a set of processes or tasks.
The information collector defines and selects of raw data inputs needed to meet the information consumer’s stated needs. The information collector participates with the information consumer to define the data quality standards for this raw data input and in the development of procedures to obtain and control information inputs.
Additional responsibilities include measuring raw data inputs, analyzing the causes of gaps between the information input measurements and the corresponding data quality standards, evaluating the costs and benefits of alternative information inputs, participating in identifying improvements to information inputs, and implementing the improvements.
While normally thought of as a person, the information collector may be a person, a device, or a program / application. The information collector may or may not be part of the organization. Many organizations use the Internet to interact with their customers, and initial entry of data about those customers is provided using an online process. The initial data quality of that customer information is dependent upon the external information collector. If an organization does not have adequate processes to check the validity of that information, they run the risk of disappointing the customer or incurring extra costs.
A brief example will explain why this is important. Recently, I began ordering products online from a new merchant. After I received my first order, I noticed I had spelled my name incorrectly in my haste to establish an account. I returned to the online process to edit the information. The site did not allow me to edit my name, so I created a new account with the correct information. I now have two accounts with the organization. I placed subsequent orders using the second account. I now receive two catalogs. After some time, I started receiving additional mailings urging me to place an order using the first account. I continue to do business with the company but there is no incentive for me to change the bad information. All the costs and problems related to the bad information are borne by the company.
Information custodians are usually information technology employees within an organization. They are responsible for the design of automated processes that store, maintain and deliver the information product to information consumers. The information custodian measures the quality of the process and analyzes the causes for any gaps between the measurements and the approved data quality standards. They participate in the evaluation of the costs and benefits of process improvements, the prioritization of those process improvements as well as the implementation of these improvements. Improper actions by an information custodian or a lack of understanding of this role may affect data quality in the following ways:
- The information that is designed into the automated system is not the information required by the information consumer,
- The testing of the system is not complete causing the information manufacturing system to function erratically producing inconsistent information products, and
- The information custodian does not adequately provide for data controls resulting in corrupt data in the system.
Information consumers are responsible for the data utilization processes within the organization which includes additional data aggregation and integration activities. Organizations desire data that is fit for use to support the organization. The information consumer must determine what information is needed and the minimum data quality standards for that information. As they use the information, they provide feedback to the information collectors and custodians about the quality of the delivered information product. The information consumer is the key role for defining what constitutes good data quality for a particular information product. There are three aspects to this activity.
- Data Definition – the information consumer must define the information required and the business rules needed to properly process that information
- Data Reporting – the information consumer is responsible for defining the reporting needs to run the business and to use this information in the correct context
- Data Inaccuracies – the information consumer is responsible for notifying the appropriate organization partners of any inaccurate data discovered.
In every organization, identifying the information collectors, custodians, and consumers and defining the responsibilities in each process for each role will enable the enterprise to achieve higher quality data and information, reducing costs and achieving organizational goals.