Data Quality lessons from the #RWC

jean de VilliersOn Saturday, the South African Springboks got their Rugby World Cup campaign back on track with a comprehensive win over Samoa. This followed last week’s shock loss to Japan – arguably the biggest upset in rugby history.

Inconsistency has been a feature of Springbok rugby this year. We seem to be playing poorly one week, and then well the next.

What are the key differences between the good and bad performances?

It is easy to blame personnel. Each of us may have our favourites and tell ourselves that, if only such and such a player had started instead of the incumbent, the result may have been different. These views are, often, subjective and subject to personal bias.

I would suggest that the difference between a good and a bad performance can be traced to three factors that have very little to do with team selection.

  1. Planning

Where we have done our homework and devised a sound game plan, our team has done well. Against well-known opposition – New Zealand, Australia, Samoa – we have won, or run them very close.

On the other hand, against less well understood opposition, such as the second string Argentinean team we lost to in Durban earlier this year, or the Japanese team that outplayed us a week ago, we struggle.

It seems that, against these teams, we are less well prepared and can be surprised.

  1. Consistency

Game plan and team selection – two areas where the ‘Boks have failed to be consistent this year.

South Africa does best when we play a strangulation game. We put the opposition under pressure through a strong set piece and then capitalise on their mistakes with breakaway tries or penalty kicks.

When we have tried to shift away from this pressure game – to play expansive, running rugby – we tend to loose. We play into our opponents hands by reducing the pressure we typically would have placed on them, and we start to make mistakes ourselves.

This lack of consistency in the approach has been exacerbated by a lack of consistency in team selection. Admittedly, with a number of first choice players either injured, or woefully out of form, the selectors have not had it easy. But our failure to build combinations has also made it difficult to execute new ideas, and has exacerbated the pressure we are putting in ourselves.

  1. Discipline

The pressure we are putting on ourselves translates into bad decision making – players giving away unnecessary penalties or being carded for cynical or repeat offences.

In the Japan game, in particular, we gave away far too many penalties. This meant that Japan were able to exit from their half far too easily, and could keep in touch on the scoreboard until their final, heroic try to seal the game.

How is this like your data quality efforts?

In one project, data quality may be taken seriously.

A structured approach is followed to ensure that data risks are identified and managed and the team disciplines are in place to document new attributes, terms and related data assets.  The team may have a defined methodology, or game plan, for managing data risks and ensuring data quality.

This project may profile source data at an early stage, and use the insights gained to plan the data structures and transformations needed to get the data right – long before go live.

In the next, data quality may be ignored.

Data take on will be slotted in as a task towards the end of the project.  Surprises in data structures, rules and complexities will be dealt with in an ad hoc and unstructured fashion – resulting in delays and rework. New data terms and assets will not be documented, or the documentation will be buried on a server somewhere, meaning that the knowledge will be lost as the project team moves on.

To read more on building a wining project culture that supports data quality and data governance principles download the Trillium Software whitepaper – Data Quality Essentials for Project Managers

On a separate note: Springbok captain, Jean de Villiers, has announced his retirement from international rugby after being ruled out of the World Cup with a broken jaw.

Jean has to be the unluckiest rugby player in history – severe injuries have forced him out of every world cup he has played in – including his member ship of the world cup winning 2007 team.

Farewell and good luck to one of South African rugby’s greatest players.

Image sourced from

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