Those were the words my son used a few years ago when he spotted a baby mouse limping across our kitchen floor. It was so lame I could pick it up and put it outside, but the visceral reaction he had was the same one many of us have to bad data.
You see, I live in an old house by US standards – 1889. It has a fieldstone foundation, which is another name for big rocks piled on top of each other with mortar to fill the cracks. It’s an easy pile for rodents to penetrate. My exterminator tried to make me feel better by sharing with me all the local celebrity homes who also have mice. So I’m in good company.
You’re in good company too; your peers around the world in your industry all suffer from bad data. Many of them, like you, try your hardest to fill in the cracks between the boulders but to no avail; like the field mice in my house, the bad data figures out a way in. Why? Because the foundation of my house wasn’t designed to keep out mice- it was designed to hold up a house.
Your infrastructure is the same. You designed it to support applications, interfaces, moving data around, supplying data to reports, etc. You didn’t design it to keep bad data out. So what can you do?
My neighbor has a relatively new house, and with a solid concrete foundation which holds up the house AND keeps out the mice. So I have a few choices. I can have my house lifted up, the old foundation removed, and a new one poured for a ton of money. I can try to block every possible crack and crevice, but I will become obsessed like a bad Chevy Chase character and never succeed. Or I can try to come up with a solution to keep mice from getting in.
Arguably this leads to rodent genocide in my yard or trapping entire families by luring them with goodies, or luring them to my other neighbor’s foundation. It’s all about tradeoffs. I can spend a lot of money and time trying to kill them off or trap them, but it’s a battle I just won’t win. Ultimately a new foundation is necessary.
It’s the same for bad data. Without some type of “foundation” change, bad data will still find its way into your system. Luckily, unlike me, you don’t have to choose between uprooting your infrastructure to fix your foundation or vainly chasing after bad data as it scurries away. You have a third option: You can build a container around your foundation – a data governance container – that enables you to trap the bad data and banish it. Several of our customers have done this already with great success; they manage up to 75% less data and the quality of their data is almost pristine.
So the next time you see bad data in your company, instead of yelling, “Kill the bad data!” call us, and we’ll help you keep bad data out for good.
For another blog that talks about data and foundations, check out John Evans’ “Make Your Data Warehouse Built to Last.”