The truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth

I enjoyed the good-natured contest (i.e., a blog-bout) between Henrik Liliendahl SørensenCharles Blyth and Jim Harris. The contest was a Blogging Olympics of sorts, with the Great Britain, United States and Denmark competing for the Gold, Silver, and Bronze medals in an event called “Three Single Versions of a Shared Version of the Truth.”

I read all three posts, and the excellent comments on them, and I then voted for Charles Blyth.  Here’s why:

I worked as a Systems Programmer in the ’80s in the airline industry. Remarkable as it sounds, system programmers in each airline used to modify the IBM supplied Operating System, which was known as the Airline Control Program (ACP), later renamed as Transaction Processing Facility (TPF).  Could you imagine each business in the world modifying Windows today? I’m not talking about a configuration change, I’m talking about an Assembler code change to the internals of the operating system. The late ‘80s saw the development of Global “Computer Reservations Systems” (CRS systems) including AMADEUS and GALILEO.  I moved from Aer Lingus, a small Irish airline, to work in London on the British Airways systems, to enable the British Airways systems share information and communicate with the new Global CRS systems. I learnt very important lessons during those years.

  1. The criticality of standards
  2. The drive for interoperability of systems
  3. The drive towards information sharing
  4. The drive away from bespoke development

What has the above got to do with MDM and the single version of the truth?

In the 70’s and 80’s, each airline was “re-inventing” the wheel by taking the base IBM Operating System, and then changing it.  Each airline started with the same base, but then Darwin’s theory of evolution kicked in (as it always does in Bespoke development environments).  This worked fine as long as each airline effectively worked in a standalone manner, and connecting flights required passengers to re-check in with a different airline etc.  This model was blown away with the arrival of Global CRS systems. Interconnectivity of airline reservation systems became critical, and this required all airlines to adhere to common standards.

We are still in the bespoke era of Master Data Management.  This will continue for some time.  Breaking out of this mode will require a major breakthrough.  The human genome project, in which DNA is being ‘deciphered’ is one of the finest examples of how the “open source” model can bring greater benefit to all.   The equivalent within the Data world could be the opening up of proprietary data models.  IBM developed the Financial Services Data Model (FSDM).   The FSDM became an ‘overnight success’ when BASEL II arrived.  Those Financial Institutions that had adopted the FSDM were in a position to find the data required by the Regulators relatively easily.

Imagine a world in which the Financial Regulator(s) used the same Data Model as the Financial Organisations?

Naturally, such a model would not be set in stone.  There would be incremental improvements – with new versions published on a regular (perhaps  yearly, biannually, or maybe every 5 years).

Back to the great “Truth” debate.  Charle’s view most closely aligns with mine, and I particularly liked his reference to granularity – keep going till one reaches the lowest granularity required – remember, one can always summarise up, but one cannot take apart what has been summarised up.

Most importantly, I would like to thank Henrik Liliendahl SørensenCharles Blyth and Jim Harris for holding this debate.  Debates like this signal the beginning of the move towards a “Single Version of the Truth” – and has already led to a major step forward.  Dean Groves suggested on Henrik’s blog that the word “version” be changed to “vision” – Suddenly, we had agreement – We all aspire to a “Single VISION of the Truth”.

I look forward to many more debates of this nature.

You can see the results of the vote here