Socrates, the ancient Greek philosopher, tells us that “The beginning of wisdom is the definition of terms”. Perhaps Socrates was the first “Data Steward“, since the first step in data stewardship is also the definition of terms. I’m sure you’ve often seen instances of the confusion caused when the same term is used to describe different things. What does the term “Monthly Sales” mean? Is it the value or the volume of sales? It is impossible to tell. However, it is easy to clarify by adding a simple qualifier:
- Monthly Sales Value
- Monthly Sales Volume
For a light-hearted look at the confusion that “unqualified” terms can bring, watch the British humour sketch below from “The Two Ronnies” – called “Fork Handles”. See if you can keep a straight face!
If you’ve ever organised a “Secret Santa” you’ll know that “data quality” is critical to its smooth running. Santa is the acknowledged world leader in data quality management, given his success managing the names and addresses of billions of children worldwide. He coined the data quality industry motto “Make a list, then check it twice”, which is a Critical Success Factor (CSF) to his “Naughty” and “Nice” segmentation process.
Santa has kindly shared some of his secret tips… In risk management terms, he tells us that we need to “manage the risk that the critical data required for the success of the (Secret Santa) programme is not fit for purpose”
He suggests that we apply 4 of his 6 favourite data quality dimensions:
- Completeness: Ensure you put a name on your gift
- Accuracy: Ensure you put the correct (accurate)name on your gift (Check against the slip of paper you pulled out)
- Uniqueness: Ensure you put First Name and Surname on your gift (just in case there are two Johns, or Marvins or Oprahs)
- Timeliness: Ensure you deliver your gift, with its associated critical data, to the secret santa organiser in good time
Update December 2018 – in response to GDPR
Much has changed in the four years since Santa shared the tips above. Santa has asked me personally to update this post to let people know that he welcomes the strengthening of data protection laws that came into effect with the GDPR on May 25th this year.
Santa Claus has always respected the privacy and security of the personal data of the billions of children he has delivered gifts to throughout history. He never has, and never will, share personal data with anyone other than the elves, cats, dogs, birds and other animals that keep him informed throughout the year on how boys and girls are behaving.
He personally maintains the naughty and nice list, without the use of Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning or any other algorithmic processing.
Data privacy professionals across the world have been asking Santa Claus how he manages his data privacy processing. Santa’s response: “It’s all part of the magic of Christmas”