Improving Data Warehouse and Business Information Quality

Author: Larry P. English
Wiley, 1999
ISBN: 0-471-25383-9

Anyone in the information system business knows the importance of quality. Organizations such as ISO, ANSI and IEEE have developed standards to define quality. What these quality standards lack,
however, is a practical “how to” guide for applying quality principles to the business environment. This is where Larry English’s new book has terrific value. While English’s new book
has “Data Warehouse” in its title, the concepts and step-by-step instructions can be applied to any information system project.

The first three chapters of English’s book review the definition and principles of Information Quality. Most readers will enjoy chapter three, which applies well-known Quality Management
Principles such as Juran, ISO 9000, and Kaizen to information and data warehouse quality. As is the case throughout the book, the author gets right to the point through an excellent and organized
writing style which is a pleasure to read.

Chapters four through ten discuss Total Quality data Management (TQdM), which represents about half of this 500-page text. TQdM works to improve both information systems development processes in
addition to business and manufacturing processes. A very important part of TQdM from a top-level perspective is the set of processes for measuring and improving information quality that consist of:

  • Assessing Data Definition & Information Architecture Quality
  • Assessing Information Quality
  • Measuring Nonquality Information Costs
  • Reengineering and Cleaning Data
  • Improving Process Quality
  • Establishing the Information Quality Environment

TQdm doesn’t have to be implemented in its entirety. The book is organized in such a way that the reader can easily pick and choose between or within a particular topic. I find myself looking
at overviews, figures, and conclusions prior to meetings with upper management, while diving deep into a chapter for detailed step-by-step guidance.

Have you ever noticed how some information system applications are easy to maintain and enhance while others appear fragile and continuously bug ridden? The field of Information Architecture
answers these questions and I’ve dedicated a significant part of my career learning how to build systems that meet long term business needs. Therefore, I was very pleased to see Information
Architecture Quality as part of TQdM, especially since there are so few good references on this topic.

The following four chapters focus on establishing the information quality environment. After all, you can have the best quality improvement idea in the world but without knowing how to create
vision, gain cooperation and change your organization, you won’t get very far. This part of the book contains valuable advice for gaining support, communicating value to management, and
establishing a culture in which everyone takes responsibility for continually improving the process.

In addition to a detailed glossary, the last part of the book contains a recommended reading list and an extensive bibliography with over 250 references.

The most unique part of this text is at the end of the introduction where English states he will personally refund the purchase price if the reader doesn’t achieve value worth multiple times
the cost of the book. After spending a few weeks with this text, I’m sure the author will process very few, if any, refunds.

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About Andy Matthiesen

Andy Matthiesen is currently working for Rx Remedy, Inc. in Westport, Connecticut as their Director of Technology. Previously, he worked as Assistant Director of Technology for the Purdue Pharma company where he was responsible for software development and validation. Andy’s software and system development career began in 1986 while working as a Senior Software Engineer for Perkin-Elmer. Andy’s experience includes work with CENSA (www.censa.org) where he helped develop architectures for legally defendable electronic records. Educated as a scientist, Andy has written several articles in polymer chemistry for a variety of scientific journals.

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