How good the data is in the company's business software systems is critical to enabling usable reports to be generated. But how "good" the data is involves looking at the data in several ways. Further, how the data is setup in the software can literally enhance or prohibit the functionality of the software. User frustration with a computer system may be due to the poor setup of the data.

Before you consider scrapping a computer system, make sure the system is really the problem, and not how the data is setup!

There are numerous aspects to look at when speaking about the "data":

Data Setup looks at the entry of the data in the software based on the data fields available for use. Many software applications come with extra data fields that can be used to setup characteristics about customers, finished goods, raw materials, and vendors. Further, there is a distinct difference in setting up data "horizontally" versus "vertically". Many software applications allow for flexibility to do both, though one method may be functionally better for one company than another.

Data Standards are required because they define how data is setup in a computer system. Without data standards, the data setup can be somewhat hodge-podge and thus negatively impact functionality, such as searching. For example, some companies have intelligent ID's for customers - this intelligent identification pattern is thus a standard. A data standard may have been defined to help enable system functionality.

Data Accuracy is concerned with the "correctness" of the data, much to do with the mathematical calculations performed by the software. For example, does the quantity ordered multiplied by the unit price arrive at a correct extended amount on a customer order? Do the pricing adjustments correctly impact the extended amount? Are sales commissions calculated correctly?

Data Integrity looks at the "completeness" of the data across the system. When finished goods are picked or shipped, is inventory reduced correctly? Is the general ledger updated accurately? Is raw material inventory back-flushed properly after finished goods are moved from manufacturing to inventory? Do the history log files correctly reflect the transaction that took place?