While accuracy in their financial data has always been a top concern, more companies are now fretting about the quality of all the information that flows through their systems. According to a recent survey by Aberdeen Group, a Boston consultancy, "85% of mid- to large-size organizations indicated that they struggle with information quality," says Russ Klein, group director of technology research at Aberdeen.

Input errors are the most common source of problems, followed by "the challenge of data integration, especially across enterprises, with trading partners and other external stakeholders," Klein says. "You have situations where it's difficult to normalize data because the structure of the data is different."

"Most organizations recognize they do have a data quality problem, but they've pursued it in very tactical ways," says Merv Adrian, a principal at consultancy IT Market Strategy, adding that many solutions attack the symptoms rather than the cause. Companies that take that approach can spend considerable sums resolving a problem, only to see it reoccur at a later date, he says.

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Susan Kelly

Susan Kelly is a business journalist who has written for Treasury & Risk, FierceCFO, Global Finance, Financial Week, Bridge News and The Bond Buyer.