Grounding Your IQ Management in Sound Quality Management Systems

Note: This article is being run in cooperation with the IRM UK’s Data Management & Information Quality Conference Europe 2008.  Three great
conferences in one!   Now including a BI/DW track.  For more information please visit or click through the banner on

Note: This article was originally published in the Information Quality Newsletter sponsored by the Business Intelligence Network ( in May of

It is sad to report that there are many faulty data quality “methods” that are being propagated by people who do not have real knowledge about the sound quality management systems that
created the first economic revolution that matured the Industrial Age. As a result, they are leading well-meaning information quality (IQ) practitioners to implement faulty processes and methods
within their organizations that will ultimately cause them to fail.

If an information quality management function is to succeed, it must be based on the same fundamental principles that led to effective quality systems in manufacturing and the service sector.

In this article, I will describe those fundamental principles of the various proven quality systems for you to test against your information quality practices. I will give you a checklist to test
whether those who claim to have an information quality or data quality (DQ) methodology are providing a sound methodology or are taking your money to provide you a defective “inspect and
correct” approach to data quality that will always fail.

The Proven Quality Management System Priciples

  1. Customer focus
  2. Process improvement is the means to quality products and services
  3. Use proven quality management methods and techniques
  4. Culture transformation: management is accountable for the quality of information they produce to meet their downstream information consumers’ requirements

Customer Focus

Universal to quality management is the understanding of customer requirements and meeting or exceeding those customer requirements, i.e., “customer satisfaction.”

  • W. Edwards Deming: “Create constancy of purpose for improvement of product and service.” “The consumer is the most important part of the production
    line.” “…the obligation to the customer never ceases.”

  • Joseph M. Juran: The first step of quality planning is “Identify who are the customers,” followed by “Determine the needs of those

  • Masaaki Imai: TQC activities have shifted emphasis from “maintaining quality throughout the production process to building quality into the product by developing and designing
    products that meet customer requirements.”

  • Philip B. Crosby: “Perform exactly like the requirement…or cause the requirement to be officially changed to what we and our customers really need.”

  • Motorola Six Sigma: Steps 1-3: “1. Identify your product or service. 2. Identify the customer(s) for your product or service; determine what they consider important; 3.
    Identify your needs to provide the product/service so that it satisfies the customer.”

  • Armand Feigenbaum: “Quality is what the customer says it is.” “Quality is a customer determination, not an engineer’s determination, not a
    marketing determination or a general management determination. It is based upon the customer’s actual experience with the product or service, measured against his or her
    requirements  – stated or unstated, conscious or merely sensed, technically operational or entirely subjective – and always representing a moving target in a competitive

  • ISO 9001:2000: “focuses on the effectiveness of the quality management system in meeting customer requirements.”

  • Drucker: “Modern society is a society of large organized institutions. In every one of them…the center of gravity has shifted to the knowledge worker…who
    puts to work what he has between his ears rather than the brawn…or skill of his hands.”

  • Drucker: “The central human resources are not manual workers – skilled or unskilled – but knowledge workers.

  • Covey: “The new economy is based primarily on knowledge work. That means that wealth has migrated from money and things to people – both intellectual and social capital. In fact,
    our greatest financial investment is in knowledge workers.”

Ramifications for Information Quality

The knowledge workers who require information to perform their jobs are the information customers. They cannot delight their purchasing customers and end-consumers without having quality,
just-in-time information to perform their jobs effectively.

We must transform the vocabulary of IT. The operative term for the most important resource in the enterprise is “knowledge worker” or “information consumer.” All IQ
professionals should strive to elevate the importance of those who perform the value work from the customer’s perspective.

Process Improvement is the Means to Quality Products and Services

  • Crosby: The system for causing quality is prevention, not appraisal.

  • Crosby: The performance standard must be zero defects – not “that’s close enough.

  • Deming Point 3: Cease dependence on mass inspection to achieve quality. Eliminate the need for inspection on a mass basis by building quality into the product in the first place.

  • Deming Point 5: Improve constantly and forever the system of production and service, to improve quality and productivity, and thus constantly decrease costs.

  • Imai’s Kaizen: Follow the Plan-Do-Study/Check-Act (PDSA or PDCA) and Standardize-Do-Study/Check-Act cycles (SDSA or SDCA) [for process improvement].

Ramifications for Information Quality

We achieve information quality, not by inspecting it out, but by improving the processes using the proven quality technique of Plan-Do-Check/Study-Act cycle to eliminate the causes of defects.

Data cleansing [sic., correction] is NOT information quality improvement. It is the cost of having defective processes. The absolute goal of a sound IQ management system is the elimination of the
need for data correction, a.k.a. “information scrap and rework.”

Deming’s Point 5 means that we must improve constantly and forever the processes of application and information development and service, and of information production, through a habit of
continuous “information defect prevention.”

Use Proven Quality Management Methods and Techniques

Besides the Plan-Do-Check/Study-Act cycle, there are many proven techniques and tools (not software) that enable you to assess and improve information quality at the source processes. These tools
are directly transferable to IQ management:

  • Pareto Diagrams: These allow the view of defects by frequency or impact to isolate where to focus on improvement.

  • Statistical Quality Control Charts: These monitor process quality over time. This is one of the most valuable tools for assuring the process stays in control.

  • Ishikawa Diagrams (cause-and-effect diagrams): This tool captures the identification of precipitating and root causes to enable a team to get to the root cause of a negative
    effect causing quality failure.

  • SIPOC (supplier-input-process-output-customer): A tool for understanding customer requirements and assuring those requirements are met by the supplier (internal or external)

  • Quality Function Deployment (QFD): A method for understanding customer requirements for a product and then translating them into product quality specifications and product
    process quality specifications to assure the products will meet customer expectations.

Ramifications for Information Quality

The tools that are useful for measuring and improving manufacturing quality are the same tools that we should use for measuring and improving information process quality. The Pareto Diagrams for
defect types and statistical quality control charts are valuable for assuring information processes stay in control.

Ishikawa diagrams are very useful for brainstorming with information producers about the causes of defects in their processes. The Plan-Do-Check/Study-Act cycle, or its Six Sigma variation
(Define-Measure-Analyze-Improve-Control cycle), is the proven technique for process improvement.

The SIPOC and QFD techniques are very useful for designing quality into our information processes by understanding the process interdependencies and the downstream knowledge worker requirements.
These, and other proven quality techniques are described in my forthcoming book, Information Quality Applied: Best Practices for Business Information, Processes, and Systems, available
early next year.

Culture Transformation

Whatever the problems and costs of poor quality information, one thing is guaranteed. If you keep doing things as you are doing them right now, you will continue with the same – or worsened
– information quality and the costs associated with defective information-induced process failure and its ensuing “information scrap and rework.” It is the current culture and
systems of measures and rewards that are holding the enterprise in its status quo.

No organization can sustain an effective IQ environment without identifying and eliminating the root causes of the broken processes that produce the defective information.

  • Deming Point 1: Create constancy of purpose toward improvement of product and service, with the aim to become competitive and to stay in business, and to provide jobs.

  • Deming Point 2: Adopt the new philosophy. We are in a new economic age. Western management must awaken to the challenge, must learn their responsibilities and take on leadership
    for change.

  • Deming Point 7: Institute leadership. The aim of supervision should be to help people and machines and gadgets to do a better job. Supervision of management is in need of
    overhaul, as well as supervision of… workers

  • Deming Point 9: Break down barriers between departments. People in research, design, sales and production must work as a team to foresee problems of production and in use that
    may be encountered with the product or service.

  • Deming Point 11:
    a) Eliminate work standards (quotas) on the factory floor. Substitute leadership.
    b) Eliminate management by objective. Eliminate management by numbers, numerical goals. Substitute leadership.

  • Deming Point 14: [Top management must] put everyone to work to accomplish the transformation. The transformation is everybody’s job. Management will explain by seminars and
    other means why change is necessary and that the change will involve everybody.

  • Imai (Kaizen): Kaizen simply means continuous improvement involving everybody in the organization. I think there are two key words: one is improvement and the other is

Ramifications for Information Quality

IQ Point 2
Adopt the new philosophy of quality shared information as a tool for business improvement: “Reliable (quality) shared information reduces costs.” This requires a
transformation of information systems and business management.

  • Business managers must have accountability for the quality of information produced by their business area.
  • Information systems managers must have accountability for delivering quality, value-adding information systems that operate on top of singular, shared “enterprise-strength”
    databases that eliminate redundant, disparately defined data structures that meet only departmental requirements. Knowledge workers require intuitive screen and report design based on their
    requirements and efficient work flow to reduce waste of data movement. Information producers require edit and validation to help prevent errors in data capture.

  • Every employee is ultimately responsible for the quality of the information they produce, or for how they apply information to meet their customers’ needs, or for whatever role they plan
    with respect to information. Information architects, for example, are accountable for the quality of the subject information models they develop to assure structural integrity to the real world the
    model represents and to assure that they have documented all entity types and attributes that need to be known within the business.

  • All employees and managers need training so they understand how to understand their information customers’ requirements and how to improve their processes to accomplish those

  • The executive (top) leadership team is ultimately accountable for making this transformation happen, as they are accountable for establishing the performance measures and reward systems that
    drive the behavior of managers and professionals.

Furthermore, the executives must communicate to the staff why the change is necessary and that it will involve all employees, and then provide the training and other resources to make information
quality happen.

Checklist for Evaluating IQ Consultants or IQ Software Providers

As IQ issues have become more exposed and more attention is placed on addressing these problems, consultancies and software developers are jumping on the data quality bandwagon. Unfortunately, many
data quality consulting practices and “methodologies” are not grounded in sound quality management principles. One should evaluate IQ consulting, methodologies and training offered by
IQ consultancies and software providers against the principles described herein.


If you seek to understand the proven quality management principles and processes from the sound quality management systems, you will have a solid foundation for implementing an effective and
sustainable IQ management environment.

Remember to focus on your customers and their needs, develop a core competency in process improvement, use already proven quality techniques, and plan to transform the culture over time. Implement
quick-win process improvements. Measure the “before” costs of poor quality information, and then measure the ROI of your process improvement.

Do NOT be misled by the pseudo data quality practices that are “inspect and correct” and that institutionalize a permanent data sanitation program. THIS WILL FAIL IN THE LONG RUN,
costing you your credibility. And it will cause management to believe that IQ management is a cost item, when, in fact, if we do IQ right, it becomes a profit center.

To a high IQ! Let me hear about your feedback and experiences at

Share this post

Larry English

Larry English

Larry, President and Principal of INFORMATION IMPACT International Inc., is one of the most highly respected authorities in the world on how to apply information quality management principles to Total Information Quality Management. He has provided consulting and education in more than 40 countries on six continents.Ê

Larry was featured as one of the Ò21 Voices for the 21st CenturyÓ in the American Society for QualityÕs Journal Quality Progress in its January 2000 issue. Heartbeat of America, hosted by William Shatner, awarded him the ÒKeeping America StrongÓ award in December 2008 honoring his work in helping organizations eliminate the high costs of business process failure that enable them to eliminate the high costs of business process failure caused by poor quality information. Larry was honored by the MIT Information Quality Program for a Decade of Outstanding Contributions to the field of Information Quality Management in July 2009. You may contact him by email at

scroll to top
We use technologies such as cookies to understand how you use our site and to provide a better user experience. This includes personalizing content, using analytics and improving site operations. We may share your information about your use of our site with third parties in accordance with our Privacy Policy. You can change your cookie settings as described here at any time, but parts of our site may not function correctly without them. By continuing to use our site, you agree that we can save cookies on your device, unless you have disabled cookies.
I Accept