Technology and Maturity

A recurring subject for me and many others is talking and writing about people, processes and technology including which one is most important, in what sequence they must be addressed and, which is my main concern, how they must be aligned.

As we practically always are referring to the three elements in the same order being people, processes and technology there is certainly an implicit sequence.

If we look at maturity models related to data quality we will recognize that order too.

In the low maturity levels people are the most important aspect and the subject that needs the first and most attention and people are the main enablers for starting moving up in levels.

Then in the middle levels processes are the main concerns as business process reengineering enables going up the levels.

At the top levels we see implemented technology as a main component in the description of being there.    

An example of the growing role of technology is (not surprisingly of course) in the data governance maturity model from the data quality tool vendor DataFlux.

One thing is sure though: You can’t move your organization from the low level to the high level by buying a lot of technology.

It is an evolutionary journey where the technology part comes naturally step by step by taking over more and more of the either trivial or extremely complex work done by people and where technology becomes an increasingly integrated and automated part of the business processes.

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Data Quality Is Like Parenting

Thinking about it: Data Quality has a lot of similarities with parenting.

Some equivalence that comes to my mind is:

  • Parenting must be done by everyone who has children; you are not supposed to have an education in education before being parents. The same about data. You are not supposed be a data quality expert before working with data; some common sense will bring you a long way.
  • Some parenting experts never had their own children. I have seen the same with data quality experts too.
  • Many people are more knowledgeable about how other people should raise children than about raising their own children. Same same with data quality.
  • While we internally in the family may have some noise when parenting we keep that internally and keep up appearances to the outside. I think everyone have seen the same with data quality.
  • There may be different styles in parenting going from “because I said so” to talking about it. The same is true around data quality improvement efforts.
  • We do see more and more regulatory around parenting like it in my country now is forbidden to slap your kids.  I think it should be forbidden to slap your naughty data too.

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Just arrived home from summer vacation I have been thinking a bit about how we consultants act at work. On our vacation we used local guides at some places. These guides were our consultants at places they know very well and we didn’t know at all. But I also noticed they had some habits which may be considered as common weak sides of practicing consultancy.

Different language

Francisco Caballero has lived all his long life in the beautiful town Ronda in Southern Spain. He shared his great knowledge about the town with us in his distinguished blend of English and Spanish spiced up with some Russian, German and probably also Dutch words. I think we understood the most though we did have some variances when we compared our perceptions afterwards.

Personal opinions

Besides telling about the town and the history behind Señor Caballero also shared his views about politics. He told about problems with young people today and increasing crime. He remembered things were much better when Generalissimo Franco was in charge. He admitted though that today there is no “bandidos” in the mountains as in the old days, but as he put it: “Today all bandidos in Madrid”. I guess he was referring to recent governments.

Assessing risk

Robert is fifth generation of British descent living in Gibraltar, the small English enclave around the marvelous rock on the Southern tip of Spain facing Africa cross the narrow strait. I remember the opening scene of the James Bond film The Living Daylights is a hazardous car ride down the rock. Robert took us in his taxi on the very same narrow roads, practicing pretty much the same style of driving while explaining that as we had to go off and on the car all the time at the different sights, there was really no point in using the safety belts.

Personal commercial agenda

Salam seemed to know everyone and everything in Tangier, the Moroccan city on the Northern tip of Africa on the other side of the Strait of Gibraltar. Salam offered us a guided tour where we would go everywhere we wanted and look at everything we fancied using any time as we pleased. Only when going around he strongly urged us to go to exactly that spice shop he knew and strongly recommended not sitting at that café we spotted but preceding to a much better one. As infidels we couldn’t of course go into a mosque, unless (of course) we gave some extra Euro.

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Man versus Computer. Special Edition.

trafficFollowing up on my previous post on Man versus Computer I am actually most workday mornings reminded about how man sucks.

Most workday mornings I leave home in my car heading into the following traffic:

  • A 4 lane motorway rolling in from southern Copenhagen, rest of Denmark, Germany and ultimately rest of Eurasia.
  • A 5th lane coming in from a local area.

These 5 lanes then split into:

  • 2 lanes heading for the Danish answer to Silicon Valley (called Ballerup)
  • 3 lanes leading to downtown Copenhagen or the main fair (called Bella Center), airport, Sweden and rest of Scandinavia.

Of course you will expect some mingling here. What happens every morning is rather a complete stop in traffic and the cause is not the merge and splitting but humans being drivers as:

  • Experienced local selfish drivers staying in the fastest lane until they suddenly want to switch lane according to their ongoing route.
  • Unexperienced (in this area) foreign drivers coming up from crowded central Europe in search for tranquility deep into the Swedish forests having no clue about where to position in this intersection. The same goes for Swedes returning for the opposite reason.
  • Everyone else having fun rejecting the switching from the selfish types and the foreign ones who should know better than passing in rush hours.

Some solutions to this problem might be:

  • Change Management learning people better driving habits.
  • Onboard computer in every car taking care of lane positioning. Should go smooth splitting 5 lanes into 2 + 3 lanes.

Now I am waiting for which solution that will be implemented first.

Man versus Computer

In a recent social network happening Jim Harris and Phil Simon discussed whether IT projects are like the board games Monopoly or Risk.

I notice that both these games are played with dice.

I remember back in the early 80’s I had some programming training by constructing a Yahtzee game on a computer. The following parts were at my disposal:

  • Platform: IBM 8100 minicomputer
  • Language: COBOL compiler
  • User Interface: Screen with 80 characters in 24 rows

As the user interface design options were limited the exiting part became the one player mode where I had to teach (program) the computer which dice to save in a given situation – and make that logic be based on patterns rather than every possible combination.

While having some other people testing the man versus computer in the one player mode I found out that I could actually construct a compact program that in the long run won more rounds than (ordinary) people.

Now, what about games without dice? Here we know that there has been a development even around chess where now the computer is the better one compared to any human.

So, what about data quality? Is it man or computer who is best at solving the matter. A blog post from Robert Barker called “Avoiding False Positives: Analytics or Humans?” has a sentiment.

diceAlso seen from a time and cost perspective the computer does have some advantages compared to humans.

But still we need humans to select what game to be played. Throw the dice…

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Alignment of business and IT

teamworkBeing a Data Quality professional may be achieved by coming from the business side or the technology side of practice. But more important in my eyes is the question whether you have made serious attempts and succeeded in understanding the side from where you didn’t start.

Many blog posts made around the data quality conundrum discusses the role of the business side versus the role of the technology side and various weights in different contexts are given to these sides. It should not be surprising for a Data Quality professional that there is no absolute true or absolute false simple answer to such a question. Fortunately I find most discussions, when they are taken, ends up with the “peace on earth” sentiment:

  • Of course it’s the business requirements striving for business value that governs any initiative using technology in order to improve business performance
  • Of course the emerge (or discovery) of new technology may change the way you arrange business processes in order to gain on competitive business performance

From that point of view I am looking forward to continued discussions over all the important issues around data and information quality improvement and prevention as, but not limited to:

  • What is the business value of better information quality
  • How to gather business requirement related to information quality in order to make data fit for purpose(s)
  • Who is needed to accomplish the data quality improvement tasks – probably people from business, IT and all those mixed ones (credit: Jim Harris of OCDQblog)
  • When is the data quality technology so mature that it will cope with issues in a way not seen before
  • Which different kinds of methodologies and techniques are best for different sort of data quality challenges
  • Where on earth is the answers to all these questions

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