Editorials

Dat Useless Data

Clearly, “data” on its own isn’t very helpful. That’s like saying “let’s look at a bunch of numbers, k?” and then presenting your worksheet with columns of information with no headings, no indication of what you’re looking at or what it represents.

Yikes. You won’t have that position for very long.

The job of making sense of it all is not simple. I think sometimes people assume that the analysis and graphs and all of that projection stuff is the meat of the data management picture.

But I have to say, I really love the correct and proper collection of data. Catching things that should be caught in the flows of available data. Managing it, making it available in usable forms. That stuff is great. It’s challenging to get it right. It’s challenging because most customers of your data don’t know what they want at that level. They know what they want OUT of the system, but not how to get there from the raw data standpoint.

The architecture of it all, and making sure all the right pieces are there is a challenge. Many times we tell people (I even do this) to “start with the end in mind.” But I think people have a tendency to take this at face value and just assume that if you’re capturing enough to get close to that end, you’re good to go. I love catching the odd things that add up to unexpected insights. Those status flags that change as a customer changes how they view your product or service. Those little bits of information.

I got started on this kick reading this article over on InfoWorld. I love the premise, “Data is useless,” But it sure can be fun and challenging and rewarding.

One of my favorite things working with projects is to take a step back, think about the flow of data through the system and how it MIGHT be used in the future. Try to capture information to support those uses as well if you can. You’ll look like a hero when they come to you and ask for it, and you can deliver.

It’s a lot better than them coming to you, asking, and realizing that you’ll have to start capturing now, and have a big hole in the historical information you could have been capturing.

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