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Communications of the ACM

Communications of the ACM

Estimating and improving the quality of information in a MIS

Most discussions of MIS's assume that the information in the records is error-free although it is recognized that errors exist. These errors occur because of delays in processing times, lengthy correction times, and, overly or insufficiently stringent data edits. In order to enable the user to implement data edits and correction procedures tailored to the degree of accuracy needed, this paper presents functional relationships between three common measures of data quality. The MIS addressed is one where records in a MIS are updated as changes occur to the record, e.g., a manpower planning MIS where the changes may relate to a serviceman's rank or skills. Since each of the updating transactions may contain an error, the transactions are subjected to various screens before the stored records are changed. Some of the transactions including some that are correct, are rejected; these are reviewed manually and corrected as necessary. In the meantime, the record is out of date and in error. Some of the transactions that were not rejected also lead to errors. The result is that at any given time the MIS record may contain errors. For each of several error control mechanisms, we show how to forecast the level of improvement in the accuracy of the MIS record if these options are implemented.

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