Why Are We So Obtuse About the Meaning of 'Data Quality'?!
Data Quality. What does it mean to you? Is it a process or a thing? It's surprisingly hard to find a simple, intuitive definition. And the more definitions you read, the worse it gets. That says something worrisome about our ability to communicate effectively.
Here is a definition in wide use:
the planning, implementation, and control of activities that apply quality management techniques to data, in order to assure it is fit for consumption and meet the needs of data consumers
No, that is the definition of 'data quality assurance' or 'data quality governance', not 'data quality' per se. Different concepts. Why are they being conflated?! If professionals in the data field can't be clear when they communicate, how happy are 'data consumers' likely to be?
Just the Essence
Let's build a simple, intuitive definition for 'data quality' from the ground-up, one that is not overloaded. The most relevant definition for 'quality' in Merriam-Webster Unabridged is probably: 2a(1): degree of excellence : GRADE, CALIBER. Clearly, most professionals do think of 'data quality' as something that can be measured or graded — as in, 'how good is your data'.
So, I would define 'data quality' simply as:
fitness of data for purpose
Simple, intuitive — just the essence of the concept the term denotes.
Now if you like, we can talk clearly about what to call "the planning, implementation, and control of activities that apply quality management techniques to data." But that's a different question.
In the new definition, you may notice I left out the part "in order to assure it is fit for consumption and meet the needs of data consumers."
You really don't ever want to see "in order to" in a definition. Whatever follows is bound to talk about the importance, relevance, motivation, or purpose of the concept. That's not what a good definition does. It should simply communicate the essence of the concept.
Leave the hand-waving for elsewhere. It's hard enough just to agree basic meaning. A definition should just be a definition, not a position statement.
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