Helen Mayhew, Tamim Saleh, Simon Williams

Just because information may be incomplete, based on conjecture, or notably biased does not mean that it should be treated as “garbage.” Soft information does have value. Sometimes, it may even be essential, especially when people try to “connect the dots” between more exact inputs or make a best guess for the emerging future.

To optimize available information in an intelligent, nuanced way, companies should strive to build a strong data provenance model that identifies the source of every input and scores its reliability, which may improve or degrade over time. Recording the quality of data—and the methodologies used to determine it—is not only a matter of transparency but also a form of risk management. All companies compete under uncertainty, and sometimes the data underlying a key decision may be less certain than one would like. A well-constructed provenance model can stress-test the confidence for a go/no-go decision and help management decide when to invest in improving a critical data set.

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