Interview with Larry English


Robert Seiner: Thank you for taking a few minutes to speak with me about your new book and the state of the information management industry.  To let my readers know, your new book is called Information Quality Applied: Best Practices for Improving Business Information, Processes, and Systems (Wiley, 2009).

You may or may not recall that you were one of my earliest influences in my career. When I was a first-time Data Administrator around 1992-93-ish, I came across an article you wrote for Database Programming and Design called “Accountability to the Rescue.”  I was immediately enthralled in stewardship and, for that, I still attribute part of the direction for my career to your work. Thank you.

Let’s spend a few minutes talking about your new book.  It has been ten years since your first book came out.  How does this book compare to that book?

Larry English: My new book builds on top of my first book, making some corrections to one flaw in my first book. That was the numbering and positioning of the P4 and P5 TIQM Processes. In my first book, Improving Data Warehouse and Business Information Quality, I left the impression that TIQM Process 4, “Information Product Improvement: Data Reengineering and Cleansing” was more important than TIQM Process 5, “Improving Information Process Quality: Data Defect Prevention.”  In reality, “Improving Information Process Quality” is the Fundamental Core Competency of any Quality System. I have changed the Process numbers and positions on the TIQM Process diagram in my new book.  Data Correction (“Cleansing” as some people incorrectly call it) is a cost of poor quality information.  All the money organizations spends in data correction is waste  –  waste that was caused by processes that are not error-proofed to prevent inaccurate, incomplete, duplicate, untimely information. 

From a content perspective, I describe the costs of poor quality information in Chapter 1, in which I document how 122 organizations lost an aggregated cost of more that $1.2 Trillion as a result of poor quality information caused by broken information processes. In Chapter 2,  I document the fundamental principles of the sound and proven Quality Management Systems, such as Deming’s 14 Points, Kaizen’s Continuous Process Improvement, Juran’s Trilogy, Taguchi’s Quality Engineering, the Baldrige Criteria, ISO 9000-2000 (now with its new Customer focus), Lean Manufacturing and Six Sigma, which is also a composite of the other Quality Systems.  In Part 2, I provide a Step-by-Step Guide to how to perform each of the six TIQM Processes, with tips and techniques and best practices.

The most significant addition in this “Information Quality Applied” is that I have developed the concept of “Business Value Circles” as a management tool.  While most organizations manage themselves up and down the functional business areas or horizontally across business areas, we find that they most often fail to understand the ultimate Customers of the Business Processes, both external (Customers and End-Consumers), and internal Customers (Knowledge Workers).

In Part III, I describe the Customers (internal and external) of Information, the problems encountered in the processes within the Value Circle and how to Measure and Improve Information Process Quality.  These chapters identify common root causes of Information defects and considerations for improving the broken processes given the specific Root Causes.

Robert Seiner: You and I have had conversations about the commitment it takes to write a book. We have talked about the “fun” you had writing your first book yet you have returned with an 800-page book for round two. What was the inspiration for writing Information Quality Applied and for writing the book in the manner it is written?

Larry English: Information Quality Professionals and Business Professionals and Managers are confounded by the severity of the Information Quality problems they encounter.  In most organizations, Knowledge Workers spend from 25 to 30 percent of their time in recovery from process failure and Information Scrap and Rework caused by defective Information Processes.  This is why I organized the book around Critical Business Value Circles affecting Knowledge Workers in poor quality information created in other business areas of the enterprise.  Part III helps them see the stakeholders, the problems, how to measure and how to improve the processes as part of a Continuous Process Improvement culture.

Robert Seiner: How do the two books complement each other?

Larry English: Fourteen Points of Quality to Information Quality in Chapter 11. Chapter 12 addresses a discussion of Information Stewardship and Governance.  My new book has a summary of Deming’s Fourteen Points of Quality.

However, in Chapter 3 (TIQM Process P6, “Implementing and Sustaining an Effective Information Quality Environment” addresses the most significant challenge IQ Professionals face, and that is the actual Transformation of the Culture of the enterprise from a vertical management style to an Orchestra Conductor style of managing the enterprise as a single system or ensemble.  I take the lessons learned from Mark Brown’s “Why TQM Fails and What to Do About It, to help you understand why radical change initiatives fail and how you can prevent the same fate.  I describe John Kotter’s “Leading Change” and the step by step guide to help you create a strong Guiding Coalition to lead the change in.  Kotter describes 8 mistakes that cause transformation initiatives to Fail.  He then provides an Eight-Stage Change Process that guides the Guiding Coalition to a successful transformation.

Robert Seiner: What are the primary messages that you get across in the new book?

Larry English: First: The only way to develop an effective Information Quality Culture is to understand the lessons of the proven manufacturing Quality Systems.  The Principles are the same for Information, even though it is intangible.

Second: We must use proven processes and techniques to Assess and Quantify the Costs of Poor Quality Information, and the proven process of Plan-Do-Check/Study-Act to analyze Root Cause, Define Improvements that will mitigate the Cause and implement them In-Control to prevent recurrence of Information Defects.

Third: The Information Quality Function within an Enterprise must recognize that they do NOT “DO Information Quality.”  Rather, they must be the Process Owners to define the processes of Quality Assessment, Cost of Poor Quality Measurement and Process Improvement Processes that can be rolled out and performed by trained Business Professionals and Management.  Total Quality Management means that everyone in the Enterprise is responsible for the quality of their Information work, and must work to improve their own processes for the good of all Knowledge Workers.

Robert Seiner: How have your thoughts about Information Quality changed over the past ten years (since your last book) and how is this reflected in your new book?

Larry English: My thoughts about Information Quality have not really changed.  However, they have become much stronger in what I believe we must understand about Quality Management in general and how the Principles apply to Information Processes.

Robert Seiner: You have contributed several articles to The Data Administration Newsletter over the 13 years since its inception and I am always very grateful when I get the opportunity to share your materials with my readers.  Please tell me the resources that you use when “reading up” on the Information Management industry.

Larry English: First let me clarify a point.  Information Management (or Information Resource Management) is a distinct discipline associated with business management.  Information Quality Management is a general Management Tool that is used to design quality into processes to error-proof them and ensure that the processes meet Customer Requirements, whether (Manufacturing, Service Delivery or Information Capture, Maintenance and Delivery).  I fear that the Information Management (most call it Data Management) function has been usurped as an IT Technical specialty.  Take the new silver bullet, “Master Data Management.”  When you study MDM definitions, you see that most leave the legacy databases in place and develop elaborate business rules to try to develop a “golden record” to keep the redundant files in sync.  This approach attacks the symptoms of the problem and fails to address the Root Cause(s) of redundant databases, leaving companies the costs of continuous data cleansing, duplicate record management and synchronization work. This is expensive Scrap and Rework that would not exist if organizations managed Information as an Enterprise Resource, following the Universal Resource Management Life Cycle of “Plan-Acquire-Apply-Maintain-Dispose.”  Real Master Data Management tells us we must design databases around the fundamental Resources, such as Customer (Party), Product, Financials, Facilities, Equipment, etc.  These must be defined in singular Enterprise-Strength Information Models about each discrete resource.  Building redundant and disparate databases is like paying an invoice multiple times, with each and every invoice failing to solve the “Enterprise” problems.  I have never found a CFO who condoned paying a single invoice multiple times.  Why does IT insist that redundant databases are a best practice?

Books I highly recommend for Information Management include:

  1. Peter F. Drucker, The New Realities: In Government and Politics/ In Economics and Business/ In Society and World View, New York: Harper & Row:1989.
  2. Peter Block, Stewardship: Choosing Service Over Self-Interest, San Francisco: Berrett-Kohler: 1993.
  3. Stephen R. Covey, The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness, NY: FREE PRESS:      2004.

Books I highly recommend for Information Quality Management include:

  1. W. Edwards Deming, Out of the Crisis, Cambridge: MIT Center for Advanced Engineering Study: 1986.
  2. Masaaki Imai, Gemba Kaizen, New York: McGraw-Hill, 1997.
  3. Philip B. Crosby, Quality Is Free, New York: Penguin Books, 1979.
  4. Crosby, Quality Without Tears, New York: McGraw-Hill, 1984, pb. ed. 1995.
  5. J. M. Juran, Juran on Planning for Quality: New York: THE FREE PRESS: 1988.

Robert Seiner: Are there any more books in your future and what might those books address?

Larry English: I have two more books in mind.  However, I am exhausted from this book, and will take a sabbatical for at least two years. I will stay active with my “Information Quality Newsletter,” published by the BeyeNETWORK. I will continue to write on the current issues and how we can solve IQ problems.

Robert Seiner: Please provide the readers of TDAN.com with any last thoughts you have regarding information quality, the value of acquiring and using the “Information Quality Applied” book, basically any last thoughts you have to share.

Larry English: I warrant my book, just as I warrant my consulting and training with a money-back guarantee. If someone buys my book, but is not able to apply it to help them recover multiple times the cost of the book, I will give them their money back. I warranted my first book, but I never received a warranty claim from any one in over ten years now.

Robert Seiner: Thank you for allowing me to interview you for TDAN.com.  I hope that we will continue to stay in touch.

Larry English: I will definitely stay in touch with you.

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