Doing Census versus doing Master Data Management

“In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria. And everyone went to their own town to register.”

These are the famous words from the Gospel According to Luke that you, if you belong to the part of the world where Christianity is practiced, hear every Christmas.

Today scholars don’t think that there actually was a census for the whole Roman Empire but there are evidences that a local census in Syria and Judea took place around year 1. This was in order to collect taxes in those provinces. As you know: The taxman is data quality’s best friend.

Today doing census is still the most practiced method of knowing about the people living in a given country. The alternative is a public registry that is constantly updated with all the information needed about you. I had the chance to describe such a method in the post on a Canadian blog some years ago. The post is called How Denmark does it.

India has a similar scheme with a centralized citizen registry on the go. This program is called Aadhaar.

As reported in the post Citizen ID and Biometrics the United Kingdom was close to adapting doing citizen Master Data Management some years ago. But it didn’t happen, so it’s still possible to have multiple names and multiple addresses at the same time in different registries while Cameron is Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, First Lord of the Treasury and Minister for the Civil Service.

Merry Christmas.

going to census

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Is the Holiday Season called Christmas Time or Yuletide?

Johansen_Viggo_Radosne_Boże_NarodzenieIn English we have these two different terms for the coming holiday season: Christmas Time or yuletide. Christmas Time has a religious touch while yuletide is old English and resembles the term juletid still used in Scandinavia. Also notice that Christmas Time is two words (unless written as Christmastime) while yuletide is a compound word like common in Germanic language. And oh, Christmas Time must be written with upper case as first letters while yuletide doesn’t have to (unless maybe in a blog post title). I still struggle a lot with English grammar.

The holiday season may be seen as a religious celebration or, which I think has become prevailing, a special occasion for business. Yuletide is high activity in Business-to-Consumer (B2C) both for brick and mortar shops and for eCommerce, while Christmas Time is almost a stand still for Business-to-Business (B2B) as no one is able to make any decisions because it is the holiday season.

By the way: The only thing I wish for xmas is that people start to standardize on the terms used for the same concept. Not at least at Christmastide it is so disturbing when we don’t have any form of standardisation.

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Multi-Domain MDM, Santa Style

How would a Multi-Domain Master Data Management (MDM) solution look like at Santa Claus’s organization?

julemandenI think it may look like this:

Santa’s MDM solution covers all 4 classic domains:

  • Party
  • Product
  • Location
  • Calendar

Party

A main business improvement achieved through Santa’s MDM solution is better Nice or Naughty management. The old CRM system didn’t have a dedicated field for Nice or Naughty assignment, so this information was found in many different fields used during the years including as part of a street address or as a “send Christmas card” check mark. Today Santa handles Nice and Naughty information including historical tracking as a kid may be Nice one year but Naughty the next. This also helps with predictive analysis for future present demand. Ho ho ho.

Party master data management at Santa’s also includes keeping track of all the business partners as manufacturers of toys and other stuff, the shopping malls where Santa has to sit in December and so on. A given legal entity may have different roles in different business processes. For example a reindeer insurance company may also require Santa’s presence at the company’s Christmas tree family party.

Product

Product Information Management (PIM) has always been a complex operation at Santa’s. In Wish List Fulfillment (Wishful) you may have kids wishing for the same thing with different wording. The new MDM solutions flexible hierarchy management features helps a lot when the wishes are matched with specifications obtained by the purchase elves. At Santa’s they increasingly work with the suppliers in sharing complete and timely product descriptions and specifications.

Location

Handling location information relates to different locations where Santa is supposed to live be that at the North Pole, in Greenland, in Lapland or any other believes as discussed in the post Notes about the North Pole.

Also related to knowing where to deliver all the presents Santa has realized that maintaining an address as part of the record for each boy and girl isn’t the best way. Today each boy and girl record has a relation with a start and end date to a location entity where location specific information, including precise chimney positions, are kept.

Calendar

Christmas present delivery timing is crucial for Santa. In some countries Christmas morning the 25th December is the right time for the stuff to be there. In other countries Christmas evening the 24th December is the right time. Add to that doing present delivery across all time zones. Ho ho ho.

The MDM implementation at Santa’s has indeed helped a lot with Santa Quality. But it is an ongoing journey.

Right now Santa is looking for a smart Information management firm to help with defining to what time zone the North Pole belongs.

Anyone out there?

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Notes about the North Pole

This is the seventh post in a series of short blog posts focusing on data quality related to different countries around the world. However, today we will be at a place not belonging to any country (so far) and only reachable on foot because it is in the middle of an ocean covered by ice (so far).

Who lives on the North Pole?

Obviously no one – except of course that according to tradition in some Western countries the North Pole is described as the residence of Santa Claus. Actually the Canada Post as assigned the postal code “H0H 0H0” to the North Pole. So it’s a good data quality question if “H0H 0H0” is a valid Canadian postal code.

Also Santa Claus may have several other residences, as the Finnish claims the correct address is “Santa Claus Village, FIN-96930 Arctic Circle, Finland” and in Denmark we believe the correct address of Santa Claus to be “Box 1615, DK-3900 Nuuk, Greenland”.

If you are interested in identity resolution covering multiple countries, there is a discussion going on in the LinkedIn Data Matching Group.

Where is the North Pole?

The latitude is 90° – but there is no longitude. So if you don’t accept null in the longitude attribute of your geocodes you might get a data quality issue when Santa Claus becomes a customer and you believe the Canada Post is the only single version of the truth.

Previous Data Quality World Tour blog posts:

Christmas Tree Options

Today the last Sunday before Christmas seems to be a good day for selecting a Christmas tree.

We are considering two different options:

  • As most times before we will find a tree as wide and high as possible for the room so it may be decorated with as much of different stuff we have collected during the years as well as some of the precious things passed down from previous generations. It will be cut over the root, but that’s not a problem since we will throw it away after Christmastide.
  • Another option is having a smaller tree still with the root on planted in a pot. We will then have to carefully select the decoration. The advantage is that it can be reused on the terrace during the year and then, a little taller, as Christmas tree again next year.   

Well, not that different from the considerations about data quality, data warehouse and business intelligence projects and programs from my workdays.

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Christmas at the old Bookstore

Once upon a time (let’s say 15 years ago) there was a nice old bookstore on a lovely street in a pretty town. The bookstore was a good shopping place caring about their customers. The business had grown during the years. Neighboring shops have been bought and added to the premises along with the apartments above the original shop.

Also the number of employees had increased. The old business processes didn’t fit into the new reality so the wise old business owner launched a business process reengineering project in order to have the shop ready for a new record selling Christmas season. All the employees were more or less involved from brainstorming ideas to the final implementation. All suggestions were prioritized according to business value in supporting the way of doing business: Handing books over the fine old cash desk in the middle of the bookstore.

Even some new technology adoptions were considered during the process. But not too much. As the wise old business owner said again and again: Technology doesn’t sell books. Ho ho ho.

Unfortunately something terrible happened somewhere else. I don’t remember if it was on the other side of the street, on the other side of the river or on the other side of the ocean. But someone opened an internet bookstore. During the next years the market for selling books changed drastically due to orchestrating a business process based on new technology.

The wise old business owner at the nice old bookstore was choked. He actually had read the best management books on the shelf in the bookstore telling him to improve his business processes based on the way of doing business today; rely on changing the attitude of the good people working for him and then maybe use technology as an enabler in doing that. Ho ho ho.

Now, what about a happy ending? Oh yes. Actually some people like to buy some books on the internet and like to buy some other books in a nice old bookstore. Some other people like to buy most books in a nice old bookstore but may want to buy a few other books on the internet. So the wise old business owner went into multi-channel book selling. In order to keep track on who is buying what and where he used a state of the art data matching tool. Ho ho ho. Besides that he of course relied on the good people still working for him. Ho ho ho.

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Snowman Data Quality

Right now it is winter in the Northern Hemisphere and this year winter has come earlier than usual to Northern Europe where I live. We have already had a lot of snow.

One of the good things with snow is that you are able to build a snowman. Snowmen are beautiful pieces of art but very vulnerable.  Wind and not at least rising temperatures makes the snowman ugly and finally go away sooner or later.

Snowmen have this unfortunate fate common with many data quality initiatives.

Many articles, blog posts and so on in the data quality realm focuses on this fate related to technology based initiatives. The common practice of executing downstream cleansing of data using data quality tools is often criticized. As a practitioner in this field I have to admit that: Yes, I am often making the art of building snowman data quality.

An often stated alternative to using data quality tools is improving data quality through change management including relaying on changing the attitude of people entering and maintaining data. Though it’s not my area of expertise I have seen such initiatives too. And I am afraid that I am not convinced that such initiatives unfortunately also sooner or later have the same fate as the snowman.

As said, I’m not the expert here. I am only the little child watching how this snowman is exposed to the changing winds in many business environments and how it finally disappears when the business climate varies over time.

Now, this is supposed to be a cheerful blog about happy databases. I am ready for getting into some warm clothes and build a beautiful snowman of any kind.  

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Santa Quality

On the 3rd of December I feel inspired to relate some data quality issues to Mr. Santa Claus – or what is exactly the name. Is it:

  • Saint Nicholas or
  • Père Noël as they say in French or
  • Weihnachtsmann as they say in German or
  • Julemand as we say in Denmark or
  • Plenty of other local names?

Santa Claus versus Saint Nicholas is an example of the use of nicknames which is a main issue in name matching in many cultures.

It’s also important to observe that the German and Danish name is one word versus two words in English and French. Many company names and other names in respective languages shares the same linguistic characteristic.

Father Christmas is an alternative identification maybe more being a job title.

Another question is where he lives.

The North Pole is acknowledged as the correct geographical address in Anglo countries – but there seems to be alternative mailing possibilities as:

  • Santa Claus, North Pole, Canada, HOH OHO
  • Father Christmas, North Pole, SAN TA1 (UK)

However the Finish claims the valid address to be:

In my home country Denmark we will accept nothing but:

  • Julemanden, Box 1615, 3900 Nuuk, Greenland

Finally I could imagine which data quality issues the Santa business has to face:

  • Too many duplicates on the “nice list” leading to heavy overhead in gift spending as well as extra costs in reindeer management.
  • Inaccurate product masters resulting in complaints from nice boys and girls and a lot of scrap and rework.
  • Fraud entries from children already on the ‘naughty list’ may be a challenge.
  • A lot of missing chimney positions may cause severe delivery problems.

But then, why should Santa be smarter than everyone else?

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