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Information Quality: One Goal, Two Meanings

England and America are two countries separated by the same language – George Bernard Shaw

In the same way, businesspeople and ITers often are separated by a single phrase: "information quality."

Both cite it as a prime information governance objective, but when you get right down to it, they don't always use it to mean the same thing.

For the business set, "quality" is typically defined in terms of accuracy – as in, is the data before me factually correct?

For the technology-minded, "quality" is generally defined in terms of integrity – as in, is the data I'm working with secure and unaltered?

The distinction here may seem subtle, but it's actually quite critical because it's entirely possible – and often extant – to have well-protected information that is just flat-out wrong.

Case in point: a machine shop fabricates 2-inch pipes per a carefully-managed internal work order, but the construction crew later discovers the original contractor-created design called for 2-inch tubes (the difference being inside vs. outside diameter). At that point, the difference between "accuracy" and "integrity" becomes stark indeed as the parts simply won't fit and the crew has to stand around, awaiting instructions.

So the question is: what does "information quality" mean to you, and does it mean the same thing to anyone else in your organization?

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