Information Quality

For the last three years I have been supporting major projects that involve content migration and enterprise search. A primary objective of both migration and search is ‘to improve information quality’ but in the projects I have been involved with little attention has been paid to defining the parameters or information quality and putting in place policies and processes to improve quality. The reason for not doing so is that the staff resources required are significant, and because there is no corporate commitment by the organisation to information quality it is all but impossible to gain the support required to at least start the journey towards information quality improvement. It is indeed a journey; there are no quick fixes.

A very good starting point to understand the antecedents of information quality is a 262 page PhD thesis dating from 2006 by John P. Slone entitled “Information Quality Strategy: An empirical investigation of the relationship between information quality improvements and organisational outcomes.”  His research suggests that there is a positive link but that at the date of the thesis there was not enough evidence to prove this conclusively. An important early paper was published in 2002 Lee, Strong, Kahn and Wang in which they developed the AIMQ model for information quality, though never actually defined what the ‘AIM’ represented! In 2007 Levis, Helfert and Brady summarised the research literature on information quality and TQM and highlighted what they saw as the emergence of Information Quality Management (IQM) as a management discipline in its own right. Another model, IQM3, was proposed by Caballero, Caro, Callero and Piattini in a paper published in 2008.  More recently an Information Value model was developed by Haines for the content on websites that has information quality as its foundation. This paragraph highlights the situation that has developed over the last two decades of a wide range of information quality models, none of which has really achieved acknowledged leadership status.

In general organisations seem unaware of the significant amount of work that has been undertaken in to defining information quality standards and guidelines, dating back to pioneering work at MIT in the early 1990s that recognized information had to be fit for purpose and not just ‘accurate’. A very good recent resource on the development of information quality management is a book entitled The Philosophy of Information Quality, published by Springer in 2014. This book is a collection of contributions on all aspects of data and information quality edited by Luciano Floridi and Phyllis Illari. The quality of the contributions is very high but for some unaccountable reason there is no index to the book which makes it difficult to track down related comments in different chapters.  A similar book on Data and Information Quality was published earlier this year by Springer. There is an earlier book on Managing Information Quality from Springer which was published in 2006 and a book on the  IQM-CMM: Information Quality Management Capability Maturity Model by Saska Baskarada.

Information quality covers seven generally accepted dimensions, though almost every paper defines these and other quality characteristics in different ways,

  1. Accessibility: is the information easily retrievable?
  2. Accuracy: is the information free from error and unambiguous?
  3. Believability: does the information comes from reputable, trustworthy sources?
  4. Completeness: is the information comprehensive?
  5. Consistency: is the information objective and free from personal bias?
  6. Relevance: is the information fit for purpose?
  7. Timeliness: is the information timely for use?

Recent research by Marta Zarraga-Rodriguez and M. Jesus Alvarez in 2015 in their paper  “Experience: Information Dimensions Affecting Employees’ Perceptions Towards Being Well Informed”. The outcome of their work as that In the companies analyzed they found a positive and significant relationship between the feeling of being well informed and three quality elements, namely completeness, timeliness, and accuracy. The organisations that took part in the survey were all committed to the concept of Total Quality Management (TQM)

MIT remains at the heart of information quality management. It organises an annual conference, which in 2016 took place in Spain from 22-23 June. The papers given at the conference are available. The papers from previous conferences can be downloaded from the conference archive. The International Association for Information and Data Quality (IAIDQ) also organises an annual conference. The IAIDQ published a The State of Information Quality and Data Governance 2016 Industry Survey& Report in July 2016.  It should be noted that in the context of work on information quality there is often no differentiation between data and information though there are initiatives, notably around ISO 8000 – 2011 where the emphasis is on master data management. The Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) publishes the Journal of Data and Information Quality but access is limited to ACM members. A good overview of the challenges of managing information as an enterprise asset (pdf download) is provided by Nina Evans and James Price, based in Australia.

See also Information Assets, Information Governance, Information Management, Information Relevance, Information Risk, Information Value

Martin White

October 2016

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