Monthly Archives: July 2009

Data Quality communication

I have been reading with interest the current debates on who controls data quality – the IT group or the business group. Looks like the consenus is that both own a piece of it. Makes sense really.

From my experience working with our own internal data quality initiaves, the ones that fail had people in charge who didn’t listen to both sides. Spend all the money on a fancy interface, but don’t understand the data needed underneath and you have a Porsche body with a Focus engine! Likewise though, if you get all the data in the system, but make the interface too difficult for business users then nobody will use it.

Being from more of the IT side of things I understand the frustration they feel about users. If nobody was allowed to write anything into the system it would be perfect! Users can’t be trusted. It’s true, to an extent. The IT involvement is needed to help balance the business users need for information and the human nature of shortcuts and malice!

An interface that can be designed to be both easy for a user, but also limit free form text is good! How many ways can the country name US be spelt – take a look in any database with free form country field and you will soon discover! Using check boxes and multi-selection boxes can all be used to keep data quality in the system even with users adding content.

Of course, IT doesn’t always really understand what information is being stored in the system – just that the fields are not null, have consistant values and are complete. The business user needs to clearly specify what they want from a data quality project so that IT can figure out where the data is going to come from.

Problems can arise when the business user doesn’t understand that a legacy system just isn’t accessible – the joy of mainframe accounting systems!  The users think IT is being difficult or not team players when in fact it is just that IT has not clearly communicated to the business user why the data is not available.

Communication! An oft used term, flung around at other groups/managers/people, but never ourselves. We communicate perfectly, it’s the other people who need to get it! So, business users write your requirements in plain English so that IT can understand them. IT people need to use diagrams and simple words without acronyms to explain existing systems so that business users can understand.

Next week I will cover how we can use data quality to resolve the  Middle East conflict!


Gadget Addiction

As anyone who has been paying attention to my Facebook comments can attest, I have been on a gadget purchasing spree lately.  Gadgets have always been fascinating to me – ever since watching those early Bond movies.  On the whole though, they have tended to disappoint after purchase. The calculator watch – yeah, that looked real pretty!  The early walkie-talkies – that weren’t wireless!

Now though, gadgets are actually living up to the literature and there are some decent bargains out there too. Couple of weeks ago I ordered a Touch wireless FM transmitter – $4.99 from some website. It works well enough for me. Yesterday I picked up my first Blue-tooth headset on clearance at Staples for a whopping $3.50. Wanted to test if it would work for Skype with my netbook – it does!

Last week Amazon sent an email featuring some electronics I might be interested in. Normally I would just delete it without even opening it, but I thought why not just check and see if there is anything. Not that I need anything, but just look (famous last words).

There was this Ooma product – free US and Canada calls for life. Uh-huh, what stupid thing is this? Have to plug it in to an always running PC? Buy a special phone for it? Get crap call reception?

I almost didn’t bother, but then I saw it had almost 5* reviews – I was more curious now. There was this one review by a guy who covered everything you would ever need to know about it. He was a VOIP engineer, but didn’t work for Ooma, just loved the product and wanted to see the company do well. Amazon page

I ordered it. Set it up in 5 minutes with my complicated network and can use my existing phones with it and no PC has to be on. Neat, one time $220 cost with free calls as long as the company stays in business. Even if it only last another year, it will have paid for itself.

So now I am feeling a bit gadget addicted – need a constant fix of new toys to play with! Good thing there are a lot of free or 99c apps for the Touch!!!