It’s easy for us information systems professionals to listen to a story about some other company’s data quality issue and how it cost them thousands (or millions) of dollars and feel relieved because we believe "that particular affliction cannot happen here." In fact, we probably believe that it is even more remote that we can be the cause of a data quality problem. However, I took an informal survey at a recent conference which revealed a different story.

There is an information system which many of us use of on a month-to-month basis. In using this system, each of us participates in one or more of the following functions: accounts receivable, accounts payable, auditing and tax appropriation. That’s right, it’s your checkbook. In my family, my wife Linda and I share a single checking account. Linda usually carries the checkbook and writes most of the checks. Occasionally, I’ll take it with me to the supermarket. Like me, most of the folks in my informal survey acknowledged that we might be a little "loose and fast" when it comes to entering data into our checkbook ledgers. In my case, when I’m at the supermarket, I hastily enter an amount into the ledger, but not the check number or the party the check was written to. Some people acknowledged that they forget to enter checks at all and, in some cases, the wrong amount might be entered. (As I write this column, my college-bound son, Michael, reminds me that he forgot to enter an ATM withdrawal into his checkbook.)

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