Some problems are not problems

Some problems are not problems

"A problem with no solution is not a problem, it's a fact of life." This quote, or some form of it, has been attributed to the political philosopher James Burnham.

It dawned on me that I encounter this issue frequently with my clients. Because in data management, there many examples of problems that are really just facts of life. Here are just a few examples:

  • Members and customers, when visiting our website, will always find ways to create duplicate records, even though they already have a record and login in the system, and even though we've given them a way to request their username/password, and even though we've given them a dozen warnings about creating duplicate records.
  • Data will always be out of date or incorrect because people insist on changing jobs, moving, and/or dying.
  • No matter how simple we make it to join, renew, register for an event, donate, or buy products and services online, there will always be someone who insists on using a paper form, sending in a check, or asking for different payment terms.

These are insoluble problems, or, as Burnham put it, "a fact of life." Stop trying to solve them.

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