Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Hidden Returns On Your Data Quality Investment

Measuring the return of investment of data quality initiatives is problematic as many of the returns are hidden and/or are in areas of the business, or outside it, where measurement is problematic.  Read more in my guest blog over at Loqate here.

The Rise and Rise of E-Commerce

My first guest blog post for Loqate looks at the rise and rise of e-Commerce, and how the move of commerce to the Internet, with its inherent global nature, and where personal dialogue is missing, brings new challenges.  Read it here.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Stop Blaming the Customer!

Customers are the easiest to blame when we are looking at data collection problems, whereas these are almost entirely down to poor business processes and practices.  If you're still blaming the customer for your poor data quality it's time to stand back and review your own work.  Read more at my latest PostcodeAnywhere guest blog post.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

What’s in a Name?

Some cultures have a wide variety of names. Others have a very limited pool, and this may be the result of cultural or legal aspects.  Read more in my latest PostcodeAnywhere blog post: What's in a Name?

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

No Shortcuts to Data Quality in National Addresses

In a continuing look at postal addresses and their variety throughout the world, my newest PostcodeAnywhere guest post  looks at building numbering and postal codes boundaries.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Taking the High Road with Worldwide Address Formats

In my new PostcodeAnywhere guest post, a look at how street naming and addressing varies worldwide.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Why would a customer in Nigeria understand what a ZIP code is? Or somebody in South Africa know what a PIN code refers to?  When you're creating a form to collect address information internationally, you need to avoid local terms.  Read more in my blog post here.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Thumbs Up! Spanning the Cultural Divide

When you're dealing with other cultures it's definitely best to sit on you hands so that you don't inadvertently insult anybody.  Or is that, in itself, and insult?  Read my blog post about that cultural minefield here.

Betsy Co-ed? Betz ee kowed?

How is that place's name written?  Check out my blog post on the problems of collecting place name information here.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Mouthfuls of common sense

I try to avoid getting into discussions about company structures and spoon-feeding executives with mouthfuls of common sense (known by the cognoscenti, I think, as getting C-level buy-in).  If you're going to pay me a couple of mill plus another couple as a bonus, regardless of my success rate, I'll pop over and sort out your company for you.  Otherwise, you're on your own!

But occasionally I come across something that does show how internal structures and communication can provide a death knell for data quality.  I was reading a technical book (published 2011), which will remain nameless.  As will its author, for whom I have high regard, and I don't plan to bad mouth him for a couple of pages of loose advice.

His book is explaining to IT staff how to manage certain aspects of international data.  Then he gets on to postal addresses.  He then makes a number of recommendations that will turn the blood of most non-technical staff cold.  I paraphrase:

  • Postal addresses are only used for sending post [!]...
  • ... so, as validation is so difficult, don't bother with it [!!] - just collect them as a long text string.
  • But force an upper limit in the number of characters you allow - who needs the hassle of working with those long-winded addresses [!!!],
  • and strip out all those nasty accents, as they can only cause issues in your old, legacy mainframe ...
  • And getting country name drop downs correct is such a hassle [true] that you should just allow a free text box to collect a country name [eek]. 
What wasn't clear was that his advice was based on collecting addresses for the use of sending post, and not for other purposes.  What is clear is that this is the approach taken by a good many IT staff when faced with the challenge of international data.  They are trying to fit the data to their tools and hardware instead of looking at what is required to accommodate the data to be collected.

Never mind about executive buy in - let's work at educating our staff in what they need to know not just to get the job done, but to get the job done well.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Blind Angel Egg The Dog

A little aside on the topic of linguistics - sort of.  I could think up some parable linking this to data quality, but I'll leave that to you.

Languages vary a lot.  In my mother tongue, English, we separate words with spaces.  In my second language, Dutch, words are grouped together into long strings.  These strings sometimes need a little time to decipher.

On a metro station a few days ago a poster caught my eye, especially the word BLINDENGELEIDEHOND.  I didn't immediately recognise it, so I automatically started splitting up the string in my head.


Blind Angel Egg The Dog.  Sounds great, but it doesn't make a lot of sense. Except that the post has a Labrador puppy on it, so maybe the dog part is close.

Let's try again.


Blind and Jelly The Dog.  No, that doesn't make sense either.


Blinds Jelly The Dog. No, not getting any warmer.


Blind And You Slate The Dog.  With a Flemish accent. No no no, unless somebody was on drugs when they made the poster.

Oh, hang on ....


Guide Dog For The Blind!

It's not just me.  I know quite a number of people who see


and read BOMMEL|DING (something that putters along, like an old diesel locomotive) instead of BOM|MELDING (bomb alert).

Well, it kept me amused until the train arrived!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Step One: Acquiring the Knowledge

My guest blog post at PostcodeAnywhere, about the first step in improving international data quality, has been posted at