Investing in data management

Companies own up to their need for better data strategies

Ever wonder how we so-called professionals tell the difference between real analyst research and thinly disguised marketing pitches? The line between the two is getting finer all the time, and frankly there’s no reliable sniff test. So this week when I got a marketing come-on packed with interesting data, I said OK, I’ll bite.

The e-mail didn’t hide who it was from, which I appreciated: QAS, the data quality subsidiary of Experian, the credit-bureau company. And it had a good teaser: “U.S. businesses admit to losing 7.3 percent of their revenue due to poor management of customer data.” So I clicked, and got to the “fill in your info to download this report” screen, which tells you it’s lead-generation bait.

One problem with customer data is, garbage in, garbage out. So I started typing … Charlie Brown, The Big Peanut, (415) 555-5555, … and then for the address field, I copy/pasted the QAS “sample address.” Now, this company owns a database for cleansing data, so they had a “verify address” button below the address, which you had to press before submitting your request. I held my breath and clicked -- and it verified the sample address, allowing me to submit my info and get the cheese (I mean report).

Now I don’t mean to make fun of this company -- maybe a little -- and in fact its report was interesting. Based on a survey of 550 global organizations, the conclusion was that whereas most of them realized they needed better data management practices, and 51 percent planned to invest in it, there was much uncertainty about who should own the data strategy: IT, marketing, or the board of directors.

Interestingly, the report broke down data quality issues by country, with Singapore topping the list at a whopping 36 percent of its organizations claiming 100 percent accurate data (also clean bathrooms, I’m told); followed by France and Germany, each at 22 percent; Spain and the United States, with 18 percent and 13 percent, respectively; and the United Kingdom (8 percent), Australia (7 percent), and Benelux (6 percent) bringing up the rear.

What’s up with Benelux? Actually it’s an amalgam of three countries -- Belgium, Netherlands, and Luxembourg -- so it would have been interesting to drill further to see who’s bringing down the average. But that’s where the data ended, alas.

Speaking of France: The Wall Street Journal ran articles last week about French technology leadership in two unrelated arenas: broadband services and nuclear power. The combo caught my eye and made me wonder whether there’s something systemic the French are doing innovationwise that we should be paying attention to.

French consumer broadband is apparently faster and cheaper than in the United States, with triple-play service -- 81 TV channels, unlimited phone, and 24Mbps data throughput -- costing $36 a month, presumably due to more competition by letting small players piggyback on big telco networks. And the French get 78 percent of their electricity from nuclear power -- compared with 19 percent in the United States -- and have pioneered “fast breeder” reactors that use nuclear waste from neighboring countries as fuel, presumably because they wanted energy independence and lower greenhouse emissions more than they feared the risks.

Now, I’m more wary of nukes than cheap broadband, but when someone’s doing technology differently, it’s definitely worth a look.