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Some Things Never Change…

I keep a file of notes for things I want to write or speak about. Recently I dug up some notes from 15 years ago, listing six of the most common database challenges I was seeing at the time. For better or worse, all six still apply today:

  1. Bad data – A universal and never-ending issue. Some data will always be bad. But most systems can probably have cleaner data than they currently do.
  2. Training – Another universal and never-ending issue. Technology has helped because of recorded and on-demand training. But staff has to be motivated to take the training and the training itself has to be good.
  3. Documentation – Technology is helping here with better and easier-to-use tools, often inline (meaning help can be accessed from within the database).
  4. Knowing what the database can and cannot do – This is related to training but also to broader usage of the system (see below) and better communication to the organization. So very often staff is unaware of how other parts of the organization are using the data and database.
  5. Staff adoption of the system – User adoption will always vary by staff and organization. But the easier the technology is to use, and the better the training and documentation, the higher user adoption will be. So this can be addressed.
  6. Senior management buy-in – of all six issues, this one is probably being addressed the best since I first wrote this list. More senior managers understand the value and importance of good technology.

What you’re seeing, of course, is that some problems are universal. Technology will help on the margins with several of these, but the reality is, most of these are related to human behavior, not technology.

So review the list, and for each area that presents a challenge in your organization, identify some methods for addressing that challenge and improving it.