Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Why are you in data?

I had a conversation the other day with someone explaining what I do at work. After my explanation, I was asked, "why are you in data?".

This question was asked because my focus at work is very data oriented. I am on a team that worries about data quality, data governance, data reuse, data modeling, metadata, data visualization, the meaning of information, how people think about information, how information is stored, the lineage of information, redundant data, etc, etc, etc. This is a lot by the way. We really care about information, where it's at, what it means, how it's being used in comparison to its meaning. All in an effort to make better use of it for better decision making.

So given this line of topics, why would someone ask me why I am in data? Because I explained solving these problems with data from a people oriented perspective. I feel a lot of problems around information usage stem from people problems. For example, people are not provided the right information and people misinterpret what is provided to them because it isn't easy to understand.

This isn't the user's fault. A data problem is never the users fault. Improper information understanding is rooted from bad delivery of that information to the user. Whether through conversation, or application screens, information needs to be demonstrated in a way that makes sense to all individuals so they use it properly. Misuse results in a lot of our interests above, as a team. The only reason we are interested in those areas, is because people make bad decisions based on information content found in those areas. Now we want to examine that problem and make it better.

To make it better, the path of writing new software, buying new software, re-architecture of data and software is an obvious need... sometimes. We need to do a better job of understanding individuals and how they think about information. Once accommodated in that fashion, a developer has the opportunity to realize their own presumptions of the problem may be incorrect.

How are people misunderstanding a given set of information? The only way to answer this question is through interviews and examination. The observations extracted from that exercise will hopefully be a step in truly solving information problems starting with people first.

No comments:

Share on Twitter