As I watch the world financial crisis unfold, one contributing factor that has arisen is that there is a “lack of trust” among and between banks. In other words, because Bank A can’t trust what Bank B says about its solvency, Bank A won’t loan Bank B money. As a result, banks have stopped lending money to each other. And thus we have a credit crisis.

It struck me that this is a very good analogue to trust in your organization’s database. Many, many times, when I meet with clients or potential clients, one of the core challenges being faced is that of trust. Or more to the point, lack of trust in the database and the data it contains.

Recently I met with a mid-sized association (~30 staff) that is having some major challenges with their database. In the course of our discussions, it became clear that no one on staff really trusts any of the data in the database. Finance does not believe the numbers coming from membership. The events department has moved to a separate event registration system. The foundation went off and purchased its own database, even though the primary database could probably do everything they needed.

All because of a lack of trust.

And as a result, the organization is completely ineffective with their data management. Staff is frustrated, the executive director if frustrated, and nothing is improving.

I’ve written all over my blog and in articles about the need for business rules, documentation, and good training. All of these tools are a foundation for building trust in the database. Once you’ve lost that trust, it’s extremely difficult to get it back.