“We run the report three times and get three different results.”

"We run the report three times and get three different results."

"We run the same report three times and get different results."

In my 21 years of consulting, I've probably heard this (or something similar) dozens, if not hundreds, of times.

What the user is usually saying is that when they run two different reports or queries that are called the same thing (e.g., "All Members"), the result set is different. The perception is that the data is bad or the software has a bug. But what's really happening is they are running two different reports, with different selection criteria behind it. While both reports are labeled "All Members," they are actually using different criteria, and thus getting different results.

This problem is widespread among associations of all sizes. The challenge is twofold:

  1. We need our queries and reports to be completely transparent. It has to be absolutely clear to the user what data the report is looking at and outputting.
  2. The "catalog" of reports and queries needs to be curated and cleaned up consistently and frequently.

As data managers, we need to be better at both of these things.

A timeless challenge of data management is the perception that the system or the data (or both!) is bad. When staff believes that running the same report three times produces different results, you've got a BIG problem on your hands. You have to work at keeping your queries and reports as clean as the data itself.

Wes's Wednesday Wisdom Archives

Try flowcharting your processes

October 21, 2020

Try flowcharting your processes Working with a client recently on their membership join process reminded me …

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“I just want a system I don’t have to fight with.”

October 14, 2020

“I just want a system I don’t have to fight with.” I asked my client: …

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Inertia Contributes to Bad Data

October 7, 2020

Inertia Contributes to Bad Data Without knowing anything about your organization or its data, I’d …

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What are you doing with new contacts?

September 30, 2020

What Are You Doing with New Contacts/ I was very interested to read in a …

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Be Aware of Selection Bias

September 23, 2020

Be Aware of Selection Bias I wrote recently about the mistaken perception of older members …

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Some Things Just Take Time

September 16, 2020

Some Things Just Take Time I learned recently that an elephant’s gestation period is 18 …

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Sometimes It’s the Least Bad Choice

September 7, 2020

Sometimes It’s the Least Bad Choice Just like in life, sometimes when we’re making technology …

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Our Members Aren’t Tech Savvy

September 2, 2020

Our Members Aren’t Tech Savvy Having worked now in the association space for more than …

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Motion vs. Action

August 26, 2020

Motion vs. Action One key to successful data management is understanding the difference between motion …

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There is ALWAYS a Trade-off

August 19, 2020

There is ALWAYS a Trade-off I’ve written many times about trade-offs (you can read a …

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