When IT professionals first embark on a data quality initiative, a common question they ask is, "What industries or market verticals have the best data quality?" Underlying that question is the desire and need to establish a data quality benchmark. All firms want to know how they are doing relative to their peers, and most data managers want to hear encouraging words that their industry is achieving quality goals more easily than others.

The desire for data quality benchmarks is even more acute because of the dearth of data quality success stories published in the media. There are two reasons for this palpable absence. First, organizations do not like to air their dirty laundry. Publicizing a data quality success story in many ways is good public relations, but for some markets, such as health care and financial services, touting improved quality is implicitly admitting you had a previous problem, and no one wants to think their hospital or bank had problems with their patient or investor data. Second, no firm wants to give up a hard-earned competitive advantage. I've worked with a number of clients who told me point blank I could not publicize their successes because it would educate their competition about how they gained advantage.

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