Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.
Early in my career I learned how true this is. My first experience was also like the statistics behind Parkinson’s Law from within public administration, but later I learned that private enterprises are just the same.
My first real job after graduation was at the Danish Tax Authorities. After having worked there a few years I was assigned on a mission to assist the Faroe Islands Financial Authorities in developing a modernised tax collection solution.
The Faroe Islands
For those readers that hate old people not sticking to the subject – please continue to the next headline.
For those readers who don’t have a clue about where on earth the Faroe Islands are: Well. 1000 years ago the Vikings sailed out from Scandinavia and finally made it to say hello to the Native Americans – 500 years before Columbus. When doing that they used islands in the Northern Atlantic as stepping stones. First British Isles, then Faroe Islands, Iceland, Greenland and finally Newfoundland at the American coast.
Just like Columbus found America by mistake, as he was actually looking for India, the Vikings probably also found America and the stepping stones by mistake when getting lost on the ocean during storms.
Back on track. The mission for the Faroe Island Authorities I joined in the early 1980’s seemed impossible. As the Faroese population is only 1/100 of the population of the continental Denmark there were of course only 1/100 of the resources available for making a solution doing exactly the same as the solution built for continental Denmark
But what I learned was that the solution actually was built using only those resources and in surprisingly short time (and with minimal help from me and my colleagues).
While I during my career have worked in both modest sized organisations and large organisations I have noticed numerous examples on how exactly the same task may consume resources not sized by the nature of the task but by the size of the organisation.
People and technology
Maybe this observation is an explanation to the ever recurring subject on whether people or technology is most important when doing projects like improving data quality. If the technology part is (close to) constant but the over-all resource consumption grows with the size of the organisation in question, well, then the people part becomes more and more important by the size of the organisation
I have tried single handed to build a data quality tool – or to be more specific a data matching tool. At several occasions it has been benchmarked with products residing as leaders in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for data quality tools, and it didn’t come out short. Some of the features included in the product called SuperMatch are described in the post “When computer says maybe”.
It’s my impression, that if you look at tool vendors with many employees, it’s only a very small group of people who is actually working on the tool