Jonathan Hulford-Funnell: No winding down for the data quality profession

Jonathan Hulford-Funnell
Jonathan Hulford-Funnell

After a slow start to the year, merger and acquisition activity is starting to pick up again and deal values are finally increasing. According to Experian’s Late Payment Index, August also saw the biggest month-to-month improvement since December 2007 in the time it takes companies in the UK to settle bills.

For the data quality profession, the recession has been a busy period. We have seen data stewards and data governance programmes become more commonplace, as organisations look to manage risk and improve operational efficiency. Closely linked to this is the role data quality has played in customer service and retention, allowing organisations to “know their customers” and differentiate themselves through service rather than competing purely on price.

As and when we move into economic recovery, data quality teams should not expect to wind down. Mergers and acquisitions, for example, present their own unique challenges: a whole host of legacy databases that require integration. Having spent time recently with a large Dutch bank and a UK charity, merging multiple databases and managing duplicate customer records is not a straightforward task. It relies on a large team of data quality experts working 24/7. That is before you even consider the terms “golden record” or “single customer view”.

Fortunately, technology to help manage migrations is developing apace. New algorithm and pattern matching routines are emerging, improving the speed, quality and accuracy of data de-duplication. One of the most exciting developments in this field, however, is using true reference data to link individuals.

Another growth activity is the return of customer acquisition drives. It’s no longer just about acquiring a customer – it’s about acquiring the right kind of customer. That means understanding individuals through intelligent profiling and segmentation, then using this information to target these individuals in a way that takes into account their personal circumstances and preferences.

The future of the data quality profession looks positive and exciting. What is essential is that we continue to reinforce the message that data quality is a business issue, not just an IT or marketing issue. That way, data quality initiatives will continue to attract attention as business performance improves.

Jonathan Hulford-Funnell
Managing director, Experian MSG (EMEA) and Experian QAS Group

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