April 24, 2020

Data Quality, COVID-19 and How it All Relates to Your Business Intelligence

By: Barrett Johnson and Jason Herron

As the COVID-19 pandemic impacts all of our lives in a variety of ways, there’s an underlying element that also impacts the way scientists, doctors, first-responders and public health officials can respond—data quality.

At Salos Services, we think about data—a lot. So, as we’ve watched our world change in response to the new coronavirus, we’ve also seen ways that data quality changes our understanding and response to the disease. Ultimately, as data quality about the virus improves, those on the front-lines will be able to respond to it more quickly and effectively. But, without the right data, those crucial individuals are operating with less than optimal information.

We’re also seeing some parallels between how data quality impacts the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and how it can impact an organization.

What is data quality?

First, let’s dig into what data quality is very quickly.

Basically, data quality is the state of the information. Whether or not data is considered high quality is based on a number of factors, and ultimately comes down to if it is fit for its intended uses. Two of the factors that influence the level of quality include completeness and accuracy, and those are the ones we’ll focus on in this post. 

Completeness measures if the data consistently provides enough information within a set of pre-defined parameters. Accuracy measures if the data is valid and truthful, based on established and shared definitions.

In the instance of COVID-19 and for organizations using business intelligence, these two elements of data quality are critical for making appropriate and beneficial decisions.

COVID-19 and Data Quality: Completeness

The first parallel we’re seeing between data, the coronavirus and business intelligence can be boiled down to a simple problem: there’s not enough data, especially when it comes to testing. 

One of the things we have heard from the experts about the models is there is not enough data to understand the true impact of the pandemic. Unfortunately, there is not consistent, complete world-wide data on this virus, especially when it comes to testing. According to Our World in Data, a nonprofit data publication, some countries have comprehensive, detailed and regularly updated data, while others have incomplete or else completely unavailable data. This makes it impossible for their citizens and for researchers to assess the extent and significance of their testing efforts. 

We’ve seen how this has impacted our economy as well. If we don’t have the data we need to understand the trend of the disease, its progression, and spread, then governments, businesses, and investors do not have the information they need to make the most informed decisions.

The same is true for any business or organization that uses data to make decisions. You need to make sure that you have all the information to answer all your key questions so that you can be successful. Having all the information requires a data collection and unification process that ensures high-quality results. 

How Data Accuracy Impacts COVID-19 and Businesses

Having complete and accurate data can help organizations improve their information quality, which in turn improves their decision quality and ultimately business outcomes. However, if the data is not accurate, then that chain of events is hampered from the beginning.

We have all experienced an influx of data and information about the COVID-19 pandemic, via social media, email, news and other sources. With that constant flow of information also comes questions about the accuracy of the data and its validity. This, in turn, can influence what individuals believe and communicate with others. It’s why you can have a conversation with a few people and get a variety of opinions from each person. Without a central source of truth, it’s difficult to tell what information is accurate, and what is not. As a result, it’s hard to make the best decisions possible.

When it comes to data quality and organizations, accuracy functions in a similar way. Without a central set of key performance indicators and a source of truth, it’s difficult to make business decisions based on data. By defining what does and does not make data useful and accurate for your organization, you can create a common language of understanding from which to make decisions.

Bringing it all together

In many ways, we are seeing in real-time how data quality can impact our world. With accurate and complete data, leaders and individuals have the information they need to make the best choices possible. Without data quality, those critical decisions are more difficult to make. This is true in the world with COVID-19, and it is true in business intelligence.

We hope this information has given you something to consider as you stay safe! Throughout this crisis, we are so thankful for our first-responders, health professionals and those who work in critical industries who are working to protect us all.

Learn more about data quality and your business.
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