Faulty Business Data Leads to Bad Decisions, Workers Say
July 10, 2006 Timothy Prickett Morgan
There is a very old saying in the computer business: Garbage in, garbage out. And if you are trying to sell business intelligence software, and companies are making faulty business decisions based on bad data they have in their systems, you need to do a little analysis of your own and try to lay the blame where it belongs.
By commissioning Harris Interactive to do a poll of “information workers” in the United States, Great Britain, France, and Germany, business intelligence software maker Business Objects was not just looking for a way to shift blame, but to bring up a real issue. Sifting through mountains of data that might have junk in it can lead to bad decisions, and apparently workers are aware there is a problem. (Business Objects also owns the Crystal Reports reporting software line, which is akin to BI-Lite and is popular at midrange shops that use reporting out of their ERP systems to drive business decisions.)
According to the survey, 75 percent of information workers–managers who tell people what to do based on data and who typically use spreadsheets, reports, BI software, executive dashboards, and the like–said they had made bad decisions based on information that they discovered, in hindsight, turned out to be incorrect, incomplete, or contradictory. Only 10 percent of those polled said they had the right information to make decisions. The respondents also said that faulty data causes stress on the job. Some 89 percent of those polled said that they have had the information they use in their job questioned or challenged by their peers or bosses. Workers polled in the United States said that they spend 30 percent of their time verifying the data they use, according to the Business Objects survey, which somewhat disingenuously used a 40-hour work week to do that calculation. I would guess that the reason American productivity keeps rising is because we all keep working more and more hours, so the 12 hours a week, on average, that information workers spend verifying data is probably more like a fifth of the worker’s week. If you want to be honest about it, I would say that this 12 hours a week is unpaid work and is a gift that employees give to their employers in exchange for keeping their jobs–a gift they give because they feel compelled to.
“For any business, information can either be an asset or a liability,” explained Frank Dravis, vice president of EIM product marketing at Business Objects, in a statement accompanying the survey results. “This survey supports our assertion that many businesses today lack trustworthy data, and they are paying the price for it by making bad decisions and losing productivity. By making accurate, complete, and trustworthy data a top priority, organizations can turn this liability into a powerful asset, and empower their people to innovate and improve their business.”