The Department of Data Quality Affairs

department-data-qualityA recent conversation with a client about the use of drop down lists reminded me of a project I was involved with a few years back.

A few years ago the South African government embarked on a cross departmental project to improve service delivery.

A centralised workflow system captured service requests and allocated them to the relevant government department.

For example, before applying for a state pension a pensioner may need an ID book 9from a different department). The workflow system would begin the ID book application and wait for the ID book to be issued before beginning application for the pension.

The morning before the Executive Steering Committee meeting I got asked to solve a data quality problem.

The BI reports measuring service requests sent to, completed, and in progress per department was delivering meaningless results.

The problem – each user was capturing their own variation of each department’s names.

For our hypothetical Department of Data Quality Affairs we may have had variations such as:

  • Dept of DQ Affairs
  • DDQAF (or it’s common homophone DECAF)
  • National Department of Data Quality Affairs
  • and many more

We ran through a quick exercise to identify the various variations and standardise each to a common, agreed variation.

Ironically, by the time the SteerCo reports were run a couple of hours later we already had some of the variations back…

In this case, drop down lists ( a predefined, limited list of government departments) were probably the way to go. Certainly, this would be more efficient than starting a Department to deal with Data Quality affairs.

In a few weeks time, I will have a more detailed look at the pros and cons of drop down lists.