The biggest problem with communication

No ExitAfter the silent alarm is activated at the local bank, the Police Chief sends in the SWAT team.

“Block all the exits,” he commands.

Two hours later, he receives a call from the SWAT leader. “The robbers have escaped!”

“I told you to block all the exits,” exclaimed the angry Chief.

“We did,” responded the SWAT leader. “The robbers left through the entrance!”


“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place” – George Bernard Shaw

Ambiguity and simple confusion over terminology are huge challenges for managing data.

A few weeks ago I wrote about the use of the term “MDM” to mean either Master Data Management or Mobile Device Management. Context play a role in understanding which is meant in a conversation.

Yet, the challenge is bigger than the same term meaning different things.

Requests for proposal often ask for a particular solution – for example master data management – when, in fact, an understanding of the problem statement may suggest that the solution required is something else – Customer Relationship Management (CRM), Data Integration or Data Quality.

These cases indicate that data management terminology is poorly understood and communicated. Ironic, when we have entire disciplines dedicated to defining and understanding terminology.

A poor understanding of how data management disciplines interrelate and what each one is has severe consequences.

In many cases, for example, we may add huge cost and complexity by implementing more than we need.

Want to consolidate customer data from two (or more) systems? You probably need a simple data integration project, not MDM.

Want to sort out customer data quality issues? MDM may be an overkill.

In other situations we may not be doing enough.

Capturing some metadata does not mean we are governing our data.

Consolidating data into a single system does not mean we have master data management.

What examples can you sow where confusion about terminology has lead to an inappropriate solution being delivered?


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