I read a blog post in LinkedIn recently comparing data quality to personal hygiene. The article stated that “If we are ill, then being clean and hygienic will not on its own make us better. We need medicine to do that. But being hygienic to start with may have prevented us from getting ill in the first place. And being hygienic will speed up the recovery process by preventing re-infection. Being hygienic keeps us fit and in tip-top condition.”

I want to take this analogy a step further. The company I work for, Partnet, is an expert in electronic marketplaces. In this environment, data quality is essential. Like personal hygiene, data quality represents your value and integrity as well as your health. It gives your customers a first impression. They make immediate judgments as to whether they want to do business with you based on the way your application and your data looks to them. How many people would go to a job interview with crumpled, stained clothing and disheveled hair. What kind of first impression would that give? Would you expect to get the job? Having poor data quality can give the same bad first impression.

With an eCommerce site, the customer has to have confidence in your ability to keep their financial information safe. Why should a customer trust a marketplace that does not offer accurate product descriptions, properly spelled words and good product images? If you can’t make sure your item descriptions are spelled correctly, why would they think you could keep their credit card information safe.

It is a poor reflection on both the individual vendor and the marketplace. It may cost money to get the haircut before the interview and to have a proper interview outfit, just as it cost money to develop and maintain a data quality program. Nevertheless, in the end, the impression it gives is well worth the effort.