Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/12/10/crap_data/

Crap data not my problem

Go ask somebody else

By Dale Vile

Posted in Evolving Apps, 10th December 2009 10:44 GMT

Getting IT professionals to tell you about how poorly the information needs of users are catered for in their organisation is easy. Time and time again, we have run surveys and workshops on The Register that confirm the issues around fragmentation, duplication, inconsistency and how application vendors don't make it easy to get at information accumulated in transaction systems.

IT pros are also very open about the complacency of management and fragmentation of budgets conspiring to prevent money and resource ever getting allocated to sorting things out properly, meaning the silos of information and activity persist, or worse still, continue to proliferate. Then we hear complaints about users creating as many problems as they solve with their DIY attempts to work around the issues by manipulating stuff offline with Excel and other desktop tools.

Meanwhile, if the feedback is to be believed, a lot of business people out there are continuing to make dodgy decisions based on crap data.

Trying to get those in IT to talk about how to tackle this state of affairs is remarkably difficult, however. In some cases this might be because they have their heads down on specific application projects and are too busy to look up at the bigger picture. With others, it could be because they have tried to tackle the problem of joining the dots with some kind of silo-busting architectural approach to information management in the past and found it was just too hard to pull off. Whether it's for these or other reasons, it seems as if the problem of crap data is something everyone acknowledges, but no one wants to take responsibility for.

And to aggravate the situation, everyone seems to have accepted that user demands and expectations are escalating, to the point that we got it in the neck from one reader when we asked the following question in our last poll on the subject:

Q: Do you see a growing demand for more relevant, accurate and timely information within the business?

When he saw this, Trevor Pott posted the following comment:

Now, I normally love Freeform, and their varied and many polls. But seriously...

"Do you see a growing demand for more relevant, accurate and timely information within the business?"

This is like asking "Do you see a growing demand for clean air, potable water and adequate sustenance?" Or, "does your business demonstrate a growing demand for revenue, profit, or expanded customer base?'

Anyone who answers "no" to a question like that is not going to be in business very long.

The correct question/answer set is:

"Can you foresee a time at which it will be possible to adequately meet the demand for more relevant, accurate and timely information within the business?"

A) No
B) Hell No
C) I put the lotion in the basket! Leave me alone!

Hat tip to Trevor for highlighting a (hopefully) uncharacteristic clichéd opening to a Freeform poll (we'll cop that one), but we do go on to ask some more crunchy questions in an attempt to get under the skin of how things are changing and the kinds of approaches readers see as relevant and useful to at least move the game forward.

It's probably worth saying that when constructing the poll, we deliberately tried to avoid the trap of using the simplistic ambiguous language we often hear from vendors, so it might look a bit wordy as some of the options and approaches we list are quite descriptive. If you are interested in talking about solutions as well as problems, though, and have a spare 5 minutes, we'd appreciate you having a crack at the poll. We'd also encourage you to give us feedback, as Trevor did, on whether we are asking the right questions, missing the point, or whatever.

Just click here to get going. ®