The Golden Record of Data Quality: Truth or Myth?

by | Mar 13, 2023 | Master Data Management

100% quality stamp on a golden record

In the 1970s, NASA launched several spacecraft containing Golden Records. These records summarized the life and culture of Earth in case an extraterrestrial were to find it. Data management also uses Golden Records to provide a single source of truth through the highest quality data to all users of the system. Here’s the problem: data quality doesn’t have the same definition for everyone.

With different ideas for quality data, can there be a Golden Record for data management?

Learn how to achieve the ultimate Golden Record by focusing on both the purpose and quality of your data.

Key Takeaways:
  • A Golden Record is a single source of truth in a data management system.
  • Golden Records aren’t equally relevant for everyone accessing it.
  • To build a quality Golden Record, compile a collection of data options rather than one interpretation of data.

What Is the Golden Record in Master Data Management?

The Golden Record is data in its purest form, offering the highest quality of information. Data analysts rely on a Golden Record as a single source of truth to compare their data to ensure accuracy.

Data exchange often feels like the childhood game of the telephone. One person collects data, but as the data moves from provider to provider, it loses its quality until its hardly recognizable. Another challenge is accessing all relevant data, as using separate data storage systems can result in the creation of data silos.

However, having that Golden Record ensures data integrity. Everyone who handles data can use and contribute to the record, which results in a comprehensive and accurate picture of customers, procedures, and businesses through the data.

Diagram of an MDM Golden Record
Image Source: DQ Global

The Truth of the Golden Record

NASA’s Voyager Golden Record has one notable flaw: it is only one entity’s interpretation of the truth. It may contain sounds and sights that encapsulate what Earth is and how its people interact, but everyone knows that earth is drastically different depending on where you live and who you are.

Additionally, the information on the Golden Record may not be relevant depending on who or what finds it.

Most MDM Golden Records have a similar shortcoming. It’s an organized database of opinions rather than data options. Therefore, the quality of a Golden Record changes depending on its use. For example, gold is a valuable material and a quality ingredient for jewelry. But it wouldn’t be a quality building material for houses. In the same way, the Golden Record may be valuable, but it doesn’t hold the same quality for each person.

The true measure of quality in MDM tools lies in their ability to deliver data that satisfies any specific purpose depending on the context.

Example of a Quality Golden Record

A benefit of Golden Records is its ability to identify duplicates and merge data into one entry. For instance, it might see three entries for the same person:

  • Jonathan Smith
  • Jon Smith
  • Jonny Smith

The Golden Record MDM combines all three entries into one entry for Jonathan Smith and names it the Golden Standard. 

Here’s what that data doesn’t tell. Perhaps Jonathan Smith might be the legal name, but the person prefers Jonny. While those filling out legal forms need the person’s full name, someone like a therapist, personal care provider, or marketer would want the person’s preferred name.

So, those using MDM Golden Records only find value from them if they can access the version of data that applies to their situation or, in this case, their relationship with the person. That’s why a true Golden Record contains options for records with specific use cases instead of a single interpretation of the data.


What is Data Quality, and Why is it Important?

4 Ways to Preserve Your MDM Data Quality

How can you ensure your MDM offers a QUALITY Golden Record that benefits everyone? Here are four tips to get you started with MDM platform management.

1. Review Data for Accuracy

Accuracy plays a crucial role in data quality because, no matter the purpose, the data needs to be correct. Accurate data includes its:

  • Completeness
  • Consistency
  • Validity

Regular data audits ensure you’re using the most accurate data. For example, you might find a newer record with updated contact information.

To ensure accuracy, identify the most reliable sources for each field. Data channels closer to the source of truth are generally the most accurate. For example, forms that patients submit about themselves on patient engagement platforms are more likely to contain the correct information than a form someone fills out for a patient based on what they know.


Duplicate data records
Image Source: Melissa

2. Research Use Cases for Relevance

The user’s needs determine the relevance of the Golden Data. One business administrator might consider a form “complete” because it answers all the questions the business department needs about the client. However, another business administrator may need different information and see the data as incomplete and, thus, low quality.

Ensure the Golden Record contains an inclusive summary of data and not just one person’s interpretation. It doesn’t need to give solutions but information that others can pull from and use in their specific situations.

Allowing multiple sources to contribute is crucial to ensuring the data is relevant for most people.

3. Involve People in Customization

For a record to be truly golden, it would require human involvement. Automated systems don’t think critically, so they may leave information out or incorrectly read records, which might introduce errors.

Those using the platform can preserve the quality of records by setting customized fields for information they need, reviewing automated processes (like checking records the MDM system merged before accepting the adjustment), and manually reviewing data to make it more usable and relevant.

MDMs are still crucial and save hours of manual data entry and error correction. However, they work best alongside people, so those using the platform receive the maximum benefit from the system.

4. Use Convenient Systems

An MDM must be easy to use, so anyone can find the data they need and repurpose it to their unique situations. For effective use of the database, advanced search algorithms, customizable options, and timely reporting are crucial components that allow users to access relevant data when needed.

The system also needs to connect to enough sources for comprehensive overviews of data rather than one or two sources’ interpretation of data.

With a comprehensive and user-friendly MDM system, the Golden Record is achievable by creating an accurate collection of data anyone can adapt for their purpose.


Customize Your Golden Record

If you’re frustrated with your current MDM, you’re not alone. The idea that an MDM is the only source of quality data doesn’t account for specific data uses.

Industries with a broad scope like healthcare benefit most from complex systems that provide a comprehensive collection of data that each party can adjust to their personal use rather than being limited to a single person’s interpretation.

Gaine’s COPEROR E-MDM is your solution for a user-friendly, customizable MDM to create a true Golden Record from which anyone can pull relevant data, no matter the use.

Learn more about the platform and how we preserve data quality.


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