How much does bad data cost? Who knows? That data is bad, too!

Renee Saris-Baglama, Ph.D. and P. Allison Minugh, Ph.D.

How much do bad data cost? Some suggest bad data might translate into a 3 trillion dollar problem ( although the true costs are hard to determine based on reported study data (Haug, Zachariassen, & van Liempd, 2011). What we do know is that poor quality data are costly – no matter how you look at it.

Automated cleaning rules reduce the cost of data cleaning, speed up the process, and impose a level of standardization that is not possible with manual data cleaning approaches.

Real-time data may be appropriate for simple analyses (e.g. averages, distributions). This information can provide a general idea about performance and potentially inform decision-making, but their use in more complex analyses such as statistical testing and predictive modeling may prove more costly than fully cleaning the data in the long run ( Thus, the short-term costs of implementing a data cleaning process must be weighed against the long-term costs of drawing the wrong conclusions.

On the one hand, delayed data analysis may lead to fatal delays in budget planning; on the other hand, financial decisions based on inaccurate data can be costly. After all, what policy-maker wants to be put in the embarrassing position of having to retract what they thought was a “data-driven” decision?

When considering the costs of data management and data cleaning, keep in mind that you can pay now or you can pay later.

Contact us at to learn how our technical experts can help you prevent, detect, and resolve data errors and improve your data.

Haug, A., Zachariassen, F., & van Liempd, D. (2011). The costs of poor data quality. Journal of Industrial Engineering and Management, 4(2), 168-193.