In last month's column, I described the data stewardship responsibilities in planning, acquiring, managing, disseminating and disposing of data. The stewardship role is shared, with the technology group typically responsible for the data handling processes (e.g., systems and databases) and the business groups responsible for establishing the policies and quality expectations and for providing the content. Quality management programs apply the continuous improvement cycle, root cause analysis and other techniques, and these same principles should be applied to managing the data assets.

The continuous improvement process, also known as the Shewhart Cycle, was developed by Dr. Walter A. Shewhart and popularized by Dr. W. Edwards Deming. The cycle recognizes the importance of planning a task, performing it, measuring the results, taking actions based on the measurements and then repeating the cycle. The continuous improvement process is sometimes called the plan-do-check-act cycle.

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