Archive | data

Data quality issues for Business Analysts Association of Ireland

I received their regular newsletter recently – even though I’d unsubscribed after the previous newsletter. Maybe that’s why the e-mail was addressed to me as follows.

Data quality issue for the Business Analysts Association of Ireland

Either way, pretty bad that they’d address an e-mail in this way to someone that is a member of the association, and worse that they’d ignore requests to be taken off their mailing list.


Weird data organisation at the Private Security Authority

The Private Security Authority in Ireland is the statutory body with responsibility for licensing and regulating the private security industry in Ireland. one of the responsibilities of this Authority is to maintain a register that contains details of all individuals who have been issued with a licence by the Authority – a licence entitles the holder to engage in employment in different stated categories within the private security industry.

So, we’ve got a listing / database of peoples names. Standard practice – organise these peoples names by last name, then first name. So what’s the Private Security Authority method for organising their listing of licenced peoples names? First name, then last name.

Yes, seriously. Here’s a link to the listing of licenced individuals (amongst others – click the relevant link), sorted by first name, then last name. That’s 1225 pages of peoples names, organised by first name, then last name. Oh, and no unique reference number for each person on the list. And no page numbers.

You’d almost think they didn’t want people to find anyone on the list.

And no, that data isn’t organised that way by mistake. Even the internal staff within the Authority are organised according to first name first, then last name. This is the information from their “Contact” page.



Data – Garbage In, Garbage Out?

I was recently reading a book about instituting change – probably more from a personal perspective than within technology or teams, but a particular paragraph in the book stood out.

Garbage In, Garbage Out (abbreviated to GIGO) is a phrase in the field of computer science that is used to call attention to the fact that computers will unquestioningly process the most nonsensical output.

The impact of our environment is something that many of us are not consciously aware of, yet it often corresponds with the same computer inputting.

If we put garbage into our brains, our performance in creating change will be equally poor.

This is from the book How to Change Absolutely Anything (worth a read if you’re trying to implement change at work or even just in your own day to day life).

I worked once with a project manager who was main skill was solely in being able to use Microsoft Project. As long as the project plan was up to date, and the reporting was presented to senior management, the actual work being carried out didn’t matter.

On one particular project, I had to escalate to this project manager that we were in danger of delivering a product that wouldn’t function when we went live because of poor underlying data.

Not our (the project teams) problem apparently:

“Shit In, Shit Out”

The project crashed and burned because of data quality issues on day 1.Even though my escalations were ignored prior to go-live, because I could see what was going to happen, I’d worked on a contingency for fixing the data issues. We were back up and running within an hour, but the whole implementation was tainted because of the “shit in, shit out” mantra.


Is knowingly storing dodgy data ever acceptable? (part 2)

KBC, as the mortgage providers for Priory Hall residents, would have known that they had a “special interest” group of customers that would likely need careful treatment right from the very beginning of the saga. These customers would likely have needed special communications over that time, and potentially – as Stephanie Meehan found out – might have necessitated some regular communications NOT being sent out.

Read part 1 here.

The inappropriate KBC communication to Stephanie Meehan could potentially have been prevented in one of two ways. The first, classifying the Priory Hall customers separately might have involved some additional computer system changes and expense to KBC, but the second  – by making the customer information slightly dodgy – could have been done at no additional cost.

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Is knowingly storing dodgy data ever acceptable? (part 1)

In any financial institution, it’s recognised that it’s critically important that accurate customer information is maintained. This is a necessity for regulatory purposes where institutions are obliged to know exactly who their customers are (known in the business as KYC requirements). But it’s also an operational necessity for the institutions – being able to contact the customer to send statements, or to demand payments etc.

A scenario has arisen this week, however, where I think that there’s the legitimate situation where it would be acceptable for a financial institution to not have accurate customer information stored in computer systems.

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Data Protection – The “computer glitch” that never happened

In a company that I used to work for, they were beginning to experiment with social media, but only to the point where a single person in the IT department was allowed access to the various social networks. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter etc were blocked to everyone except this person – let’s call her Henrietta.

As a fairly proficient user of Twitter myself, and being interested in how the company would approach what I thought was a particularly interesting, though challenging from a regulatory perspective, opportunity on Twitter, I started to have some interesting discussions with Henrietta.

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David Cameron and his plans to block porn and the potential data implications

There are obvious concerns that have led to the intention from the Prime Minister to block access to internet porn – his full speech is here. In the wake of his speech, the ISPCC in Ireland have called for similar blocking to be implemented here (some details here).

In the hours after his speech, some expected concerns have been raised about the implications of the proposals, and what they might mean for internet freedoms and censorship (more from The New Statesman here).

As the father of an inquisitive little girl being brought up in a house full of technology and windows to the internet, on a personal level, I’d almost want to take both sides of the argument here. It’s a case of knowing that “something” must be done while fearing that the manner of the proposals aren’t the right way to do that “something”.

There are others more qualified and experienced to take both sides of that argument, so my focus here is on the data implications of the proposal.

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