Data quality

Data quality is a management function of cloud-scale analytics. It resides in the data management landing zone and is a core part of governance.

Data quality considerations

Data quality is the responsibility of every individual who creates and consumes data products. Creators should adhere to the global and domain rules, while consumers should report data inconsistencies to the owning data domain via a feedback loop.

Because data quality affects all the data provided to the board, it should start at the top of the organization. The board should have insights as to the quality of data provided to them.

However, being proactive still requires you to have data quality experts who can clean buckets of data that require remediation. Avoid pushing this work to a central team and instead target the data domain, with specific data knowledge, to cleanse the data.

Data quality metrics

Data quality metrics are key to assessing and increasing the quality of your data products. At a global and domain level, you need to decide upon your quality metrics. At a minimum, we recommend the following metrics.

Metrics Metrics definitions
Completeness = % total of non-nulls + non-blanks Measures data availability, fields in the dataset that aren't empty, and default values that were changed. For example, if a record includes 01/01/1900 as a data of birth, it's highly likely that the field was never populated.
Uniqueness = % of non-duplicate values Measures distinct values in a given column compared to the number of rows in the table. For example, given four distinct color values (red, blue, yellow, and green) in a table with five rows, that field is 80% (or 4/5) unique.
Consistency = % of data having patterns Measures compliance within a given column to its expected data type or format. For example, an email field containing formatted email addresses, or a name field with numeric values.
Validity= % of reference matching Measures successful data matching to its domain reference set. For example, given a country/region field (complying with taxonomy values) in a transactional records system, the value of "US of A" isn't valid.
Accuracy= % of unaltered values Measures successful reproduction of the intended values across multiple systems. For example, if an invoice itemizes a SKU and extended price that differs from the original order, the invoice line item is inaccurate.
Linkage = % of well-integrated data Measures successful association to its companion reference details in another system. For example, if an invoice itemizes an incorrect SKU or product description, the invoice line item isn't linkable.

Data profiling

Data profiling examines data products that are registered, in the data catalog, and collects statistics and information about that data. To provide summary and trend views about the data quality over time, store this data in your metadata repository against the data product.

Data profiles help users answer questions about data products, including:

  • Can it be used to solve my business problem?
  • Does the data conform to particular standards or patterns?
  • What are some of the anomalies of the data source?
  • What are possible challenges of integrating this data into my application?

Users can view the data product profile by using a reporting dashboard within their data marketplace.

You can report on such items as:

  • Completeness: Indicates the percentage of data that isn't blank or null
  • Uniqueness: Indicates the percentage of data that isn't duplicated
  • Consistency: Indicates data where data integrity is maintained

Data quality recommendations

To implement data quality, you need to use both human and computational power as follows:

  • Use solutions that include algorithms, rules, data profiling and metrics.

  • Use domain experts who can step in when there's a requirement to train an algorithm due to a high number of errors passing through the compute layer.

  • Validate early. Traditional solutions have extracted, transformed, and loaded data before any data quality has been applied. By this time, the data product is already being consumed and errors surfaced to downstream data products. Instead, as data is ingested from the source, implement data quality checks near the sources and before downstream consumers use the data products. If there's batch ingestion from the data lake, do these checks when you move data from raw to enriched.

    Diagram of how to implement data quality during ingestion.

  • Before data is moved to the enriched layer, its schema and columns are checked against the metadata registered in the data catalog.

  • If the data contains errors, the load is stopped, and the data application team notified of the failure.

  • If the schema and column checks pass, the data is loaded into the enriched layers with conformed data types.

  • Before you move to the enriched layer, a data quality process checks for compliance against the algorithms and rules.


Define data quality rules at both a global and domain level. Doing so allows the business to define its standards for every created data product and allows data domains to create additional rules related to their domain.

Data quality solutions

As of February 2022, Microsoft depends on partners, open-source solutions, and custom solutions to provide a data quality solution. You're encouraged to assess partners, such as Informatica, Talend, CluedIn and Ataccama One.

For open-source solutions, businesses have implemented the Great Expectations tool into their data pipelines.

Data quality summary

Fixing data quality can have serious consequences for a business. It can lead to business units interpreting data products in different ways. This misinterpretation can prove costly to the business bases decisions upon data products with lower data quality. Fixing data products, with missing attributes, can be an expensive task and could require full reloads of data from # of periods.

Validate data quality early and put processes in to proactively address poor data quality. For example, a data product can't be released to production until it achieves a certain amount of completeness.

You can use tooling as a free choice, but ensure it includes expectations (rules), data metrics, profiling, and the ability to secure the expectations so that you can implement global and domain-based expectations.

Next steps