Tag Archives: data integrity

How Easy Is It For You To Manage, Analyze And Present Data?

apple-256262_640I ask because my articles are up, including my big piece from NTEN’s Collected Voices: Data-Informed Nonprofits on Architecting Healthy Data Management Systems. I’m happy to have this one available in a standalone, web-searchable format, because I think it’s a bit of a  signature work.  I consider data systems architecture to be my main talent; the most significant work that I’ve done in my career.

  • I integrated eleven databases at the law firm of Lillick & Charles in the late 90’s, using Outlook as a portal to Intranet, CRM, documents and voicemail. We had single-entry of all client and matter data that then, through SQL Server triggers, was pushed to the other databases that shared the data.  This is what I call the “holy grail” of data ,entered once by the person who cares most about it, distributed to the systems that use it, and then easily accessible by staff. No misspelled names or redundant data entry chores.
  • In the early 2000’s, at Goodwill, I developed a retail data management system on open source (MySQL and PHP, primarily) that put drill-down reporting in a web browser, updated by 6:00 am every morning with the latest sales and production data.  We were able to use this data in ways that were revolutionary for a budget-challenged Goodwill, and we saw impressive financial results.

The article lays out the approach I’m taking at Legal Services Corporation to integrate all of our grantee data into a “data portal”, built on Salesforce and Box. It’s written with the challenges that nonprofits face front and center: how to do this on a budget, and how to do it without a team of developers on staff.

At a time when, more and more, our funding depends on our ability to demonstrate our effectiveness, we need the data to be reliable, available and presentable.  This is my primer on how you get there from the IT viewpoint.

I also put up four articles from Idealware.  These are all older (2007 to 2009), they’re all still pretty relevant, although some of you might debate me on the RSS article:

This leaves only one significant piece of my nptech writing missing on the blog, and that’s my chapter in NTEN’s “Managing Technology To Meet Your Mission” book about Strategic Planning. Sorry, you gotta buy that one. However, a Powerpoint that I based on my chapter is here.

Does Your Data have a Bad Reputation?

This post was originally published on the Idealware Blog in June of 2009.

notepad.jpgPhoto by StarbuckGuy

As you probably know, the U.S. Congress has been having a big debate about what went on behind closed door briefings on the treatment of detainees in the war on terrorism. At issue is whether House Leader Nancy Pelosi was told about the use of harsh interrogation tactics, which many of us define as torture, in 2002 and 2003 briefings, when the tactics were actually in use. Rep. Pelosi maintains that they weren’t discussed; The CIA, responsible for the briefings, maintains that they were, but neither of them has yet provided documentation that might settle the matter. Meanwhile, Rep. Pelosi’s Democratic colleague, Rep. Bob Graham, who, as head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, was also to be briefed on such actions, reports that the CIA’s assertions are in error. Dates that they claim he was in briefings on the subject are wrong. His his meticulous notes, which he has traditionally been kidded about keeping, establish that only one of four CIA-alleged meetings actually occurred, and, in it, the harsh interrogation tactics weren’t discussed.

At this point, you might well be asking why I’m bringing this up on the Idealware blog. And the answer is, because it’s about data, or, more to the point, the integrity of data and data keeping systems, and that’s a topic close to our hearts here at Idealware. This example was inspired by some great reporting by the frivously-named, but thought-provoking blog BoingBoing, and a post of theirs on May 21st titled “Bob Graham’s much-scoffed-at little notebooks are more reliable than the CIA’s records“. They quote Gary Wolf’s post (which I highly recommend reading) about the intriguing fact that the CIA backed off of their record keeping claims rather quickly upon learning that they didn’t jibe with Graham’s personal notes. Consider this for a minute: Bob Graham’s personal note-taking has more authority than the record keeping of the Central Intelligence Agency. The killer line from Wolf’s post is:

“Personal data, kept by a dedicated and interested party, even using yesterday’s technology, will trump large scale collection systems managed by bureaucrats.”

You can find some really excellent advice here at Idealware on what to buy and how to implement the software that will manage the critical information that your organization lives and dies by. You can spend hundreds of thousands of dollars deploying it. But it, too, might be outclassed by the scribbling of a person who’s scribble-keeping habits are far less impeachable (to keep the political allegory going) than the data integrity securing processes that you build around your system.

When you deploy that software, one thing to consider is “who owns this data? Who has the most respect for it?”. Distribute the data entry duties in ways that insure that the people who first put that data into the system care about it, and are invested in seeing that it goes in correctly. Then, integrate your systems in ways that eliminate duplicate entry of that data. Set up triggers that push data from the authoritative systems of record (the ones that the people who care enter the data into) to the auxiliary systems, insuring that no donor or client’s name is misspelled one place, but correct in another; and that a $50 donation via the web site isn’t recorded as a $500 entry in your donor database.

Doing this will insure that your data-keeping systems have the upstanding reputations that your organization depends on.