I recently joined a new company, and as with all such endeavors, there was a really long list of things I had to do to get everything set up in a variety of systems. You know the stuff – HR used to do it for us, but then someone figured out that they could dispense with HR and make us new-hires do it for ourselves. Don’t get me started.
At any rate, the VERY first thing was to get a corporate credit card, as I’d be traveling and company policy demands that we charge all business expenses to the card. So I dutifully went down the list of things I needed to do to apply for the card, and by Friday morning (Thursday was my first day) I had submitted everything with a “rush”. Long about Wednesday, I still hadn’t gotten the confirmation email from AMEX telling me that they were processing the application, and therein hangs a tale.
“Timeliness” is one of those Data Quality dimensions that I haven’t paid a whole lot of attention to. In fact, those of you who have worked with me may have heard me say “I’d rather have it right than fast”. Of course, at SOME point you need the data, and if you haven’t got it, then the data quality has failed in that dimension. Most of us probably think of these failures in terms of daily jobs that take more than 24 hours to run, or failed updates to the data warehouse, or some such. But Timeliness depends on the business requirement, and in this case, the requirement is the ability to issue a corporate credit card within a very narrow time frame.
So, on Wednesday, I got busy and hunted down the “Program Administrator” who was supposed to authorize the issuing of the card to find out what was going on. As it turned out, the reason it had not been approved was pretty simple: when she looked up my employee id in the list that she gets from HR once a week, it wasn’t there. I can see all of you out there nodding your heads, just like I did. At any rate, not noticing that it was a rush, she simply put it aside until she got the next list from HR, which I presume would have had my id on it. When I pointed out that it was a rush, she executed a “manual process”, found my id, and approved issuing the card, which arrived just in the nick of time.
So clearly the data failed the Timeliness dimension. Notice that it wasn’t that HR didn’t have my info, they did. It was just that it wasn’t on her report. And, as with so many data quality problems (most of them, in fact), the failure was indicative of a broken process. In this case, her process didn’t account for the business scenario where an employee starts mid-week and needs a credit card right away. What has me scratching my head is this has to happen on a fairly frequent basis, and yet she has not adjusted the process (or asked someone else to) to adapt. Clearly she has a “manual process” to look someone up (probably in the corporate directory), but it undoubtedly takes more time to do it. Still, as someone who almost ended up paying all the expenses myself (its much harder to get reimbursed that way than if you use the corporate credit card), I think we can do better. Of course, I gently suggested that.