What is your definition of high quality information? Does the success of an organization depend upon access to high quality information?

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My answer to this is will take a little detour, but we will get to some form of a definition: In any business environment, the quality of the data is related to the ways that the data sets are used. Impacts to the achievement of business objectives cause by flawed data reflect the operational requirements for asserting the quality of the data, and this is defined in terms of information policies imposed by the business applications based on what they expect from the data in order to avoid those negative impacts. However, what is defined as high quality in one environment may be irrelevant in another environment, and that is what makes an objective (and context-independent) definition of high quality information so challenging. Ultimately, the definition must be specified within each environment in terms of how well the information conforms to the business applications' information policies.

However, you asked about information, and not just data, and that complicates the question a bit more, since we can assert rules about data value formats, structures, completeness, etc., but the word "information" conveys not just the data values, but also the understanding and perception of how that data is used within the numerous business processes. Therefore, one way to define information quality is the assurance that the information meets the needs of the consuming business processes.

When information quality is high, the business processes (and not specifically the applications implementing those processes!) run they way they are supposed to run, without significant effort expended on issue detection, diagnosis and correction. Given that, when information quality is high, time is spent doing what is supposed to be done, and when information quality is low, time is spent on figuring out how to get done what is supposed to be done. Successful organizations achieve their business objectives in the most optimized manner, and therefore, I would say that maintaining "high quality" information is at least one success factor for any organization.

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  • This was first published in December 2007

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