Where Does the Fault Lie?
Needless to say, this is most unfortunate. The computer is often blamed for the failings of what is really a people-and-process problem. This is particularly true when decision-support systems are concerned and the input to computer programs derives from individuals or teams rather than from streams of accounting or other data.
GIGO is also used as a pejorative by persons who seek to undermine or deride use of advanced analytical and decision-support systems. I challenge this stand; GIGO can occur regardless of the system used–Excel documents are particularly prone to GIGO, either by accident or malicious forethought. The same can be said for any input. It is not a device problem. It is a people problem; frequently a company cultural problem.
People make decisions. Analytics help people make decisions; hopefully good ones. The difference is often the decision process; specifically how to bring people together to improve the quality of their decision making.
The six principles of Decision Quality (DQ) offer a great starting point for minimizing garbage in. By training everyone who has input to the decision process in the six principles and by developing transparency around the decision process, politics can be minimized, objectivity maintained and garbage circumvented.
DQ is a collaborative process, particularly in areas where the company is making heavy investments in uncertain futures, such as R&D, product development and innovation. To preserve data and information integrity, key stakeholders need to be involved in producing the numbers and ranges of numbers around technical, market, cost and other factors that influence the development of quality decisions. Typically, a team might include finance, marketing, R&D, strategic planning and others with (a) domain knowledge and (b) a stake in the outcome.
The challenge is to do as much as you can to assure the integrity of data input to the computer, thus avoiding garbage in and producing information that is trustworthy and actionable. You don’t have to worry about garbage out if you have successfully achieved control over quality input.