Data Fairy tales – Episode 2 ‘The Single View of the Truth’

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So, we all remember our ‘happily ever afters’ don’t we? I have the second instalment in the Information Management story; another epic but this time with a wicked twist at the end! Cue the ‘Single View of the truth’ and, I have to say, the vendors out there that are promising this nirvana, should see their […]

So, we all remember our ‘happily ever afters’ don’t we?

I have the second instalment in the Information Management story; another epic but this time with a wicked twist at the end! Cue the ‘Single View of the truth’ and, I have to say, the vendors out there that are promising this nirvana, should see their noses elongate like good ol’ Pinocchio…..

An accurate and consistent view of key information is critical, even in bed-time stories…..

Imagine,

  • Cinderella’s late return from the ball rendering her carriage into a pumpkin and garments into rags due to poor time information as she thought she was on GMT rather than Central European Time.
  • Hansel and Gretel erroneously visiting the Witches Cabin as the address register was incorrectly marked in terms of context showing ‘as loves children’ (rather than ‘loves to eat children’)
  • On arrival in Wonderland, Alice’s inability to both reach the table and, go through the door in the correct sequence due to inadequate product labelling (‘Eat Me’ and ‘Drink Me’ without explaining the impacts of this action)

 

Maybe these tales would made matters a little easier had ‘consistent reference data’ from their individual perspectives have been in place from the outset of the tale!

As Information Practitioners we all aspire to provide clarity and insight holistically, however, the perpetual reference to a ‘single view’ or ‘golden record’ is as attainable as the mythical ‘golden egg’ and has the vendor-induced integrity of Peter crying wolf on the first occasion.

Enter the legendary ‘Single View of the Truth’….

  • It represents everything from the organisations perspective to be consumed by all
  • It aligns all lines of business under a common and understood information model
  • It consolidates all business systems data into a single database repository
  • It is kept up-to-date automatically and, new development augments rather than fragments it
  • It is both widely accepted, funded and supported corporately across the organisation

 

Well that doesn’t sound too taxing does it? Until you ask……

Whose ‘single view’ are we talking about exactly?

I suggest, it is practically impossible to provide a consolidated single view of a corporate data entity such as ‘Customer’ across all lines of business from both an inwardly-facing perspective (to our employees and shareholders) and, from an externally-facing perspective (out to suppliers, customers and the regulator as examples)

Key reference data such as Customer, Product and Location imply fundamentally different perspectives across different stakeholder groups, with the underlying generation, consumption and grouping of data differing across a number of parameters:

A) LIFE-CYCLE  

Prospects arrive and then customers churn. Products are designed and then decommissioned etc.

B) PROCESS

At various stages of a business process, the concept of an ‘active customer’ changes depending upon stakeholder perspective.

C) SYSTEM

Different systems are focused on different outcomes. The customers in a billing system will not necessarily equate to the customers in the sales system. At different points in the customer journey, a customer may be known to certain lines-of-business and not to others.

D) CONTROL

Data is control; The Sales Director will always trust the sales data over other alternative sources of customer, pipeline and revenue information. Why? It is tailored and governed to the individual needs of the target audience and, MOST IMPORTANTLY, IT IS ALREADY UNDERSTOOD AND TRUSTED.

The Single View of the truth falls apart when organisations attempt to generalise the 4 parameters above up to the corporate level thereby destroying the context, trust and usability of the data being provided..

An Ode to the Single View of Truth

I personally cannot continue to propagate the myth of a corporate single view and, as such I present:

An ode to the Single View of the Truth

There once was a Salesman called John,
Who found his best customers had gone,
Whilst looking for reasons, he found new dated seasons,
And realised his discounts were wrong

The elusive ‘single view’ needs to retain the context of the audience at hand whilst, being based on a unified and consistent foundation of corporate information.

In this instance, a change to ‘standard’ season at the corporate level inadvertently prevented discounts being offered within a specific sales territory leading to potential customer churn.

So, how do I achieve the ‘Midas touch’ for data?

King Midas finally understood that not everything should be turned to gold for the betterment of his kingdom and its people. In consequence, he adopted a ‘lighter touch’ (excuse the pun here!) approach

The reality is that we should aspire to deliver a ‘consistent perspectives’ targeted at a specific information consumers which are both ‘synchronised and aligned’ against a common business dictionary for critical corporate reference data.

  • SYNCHRONISE rather than CONSOLIDATE all your corporate reference data
  • PRIORITISE the reference data entities that are MOST COMMONLY USED
  • FOCUS on individual attributes that have THE HIGHEST IMPACT ON THE BOTTOM LINE
  • ENSURE that HIERARCHY MANAGEMENT is standardised in parallel to core reference data

Success lies with focus on ‘the Golden Key’

The route to success for your ‘single view requirement’ can be found in the Grimm’s fairy tale 200 entitled ‘The Golden Key’:

“Once in the wintertime when the snow was very deep, a poor boy had to go out and fetch wood on a sled. After he had gathered it together and loaded it, he did not want to go straight home, because he was so frozen, but instead to make a fire and warm himself a little first. So he scraped the snow away, and while he was thus clearing the ground he found a small golden key. Now he believed that where there was a key, there must also be a lock, so he dug in the ground and found a little iron chest. “If only the key fits!” he thought. “Certainly there are valuable things in the chest.” He looked, but there was no keyhole. Finally he found one, but so small that it could scarcely be seen. He tried the key, and fortunately it fitted. Then he turned it once, and now we must wait until he has finished unlocking it and has opened the lid. Then we shall find out what kind of wonderful things there were in the little chest.”

The key to a successful reference data management strategy lies with a single key rather than a single view.

If your organisation can synchronise its line of business systems (the metaphor being the Iron Box) with a corporate repository of unified reference data and related attributes (the golden key) and in doing so, gradually align information assets corporately under a common approach, the benefits will arise over time.

This journey  will take time, effort and continuous business support to fully realise its true potential.

Hopefully, with this approach, the balance of reference data consistency and line of business consumer flexibility will be achieved.

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