A common information quality problem exists when the meaning of data stored in historical databases (such as a data warehouse) changes over time. Correct handling of changed data definition is critical for archived data collections or for data warehouses and data marts that maintain historical data that may be compared over time. In this column, I identify the types of data definition change and describe guidelines for determining the proper method for handling those changes.

There are three basic types of definition changes to an attribute or fact and four basic ways to implement them. The three types of changes are: the attribute has a new meaning, the domain or set of values is changed and the business rules for determining the value for the attribute have changed.

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