One of my favorite songs from a musical has the line ”525,600 minutes; How do you measure, measure a year?” And how many songs have been written about the “measure of a man”? These are all catchy tunes, but after a recent remodeling experience, I was starting to question the “measure of a measure”.
It sounds like a bizarre statement or a flashback to something related to 1990′s function points… measuring a measure? Even more bizarre was the reason that the thought kept running through my head. Normally, my personal and professional lives stay somewhat separate; however, the aforementioned remodeling caused these two worlds to collide in a way that I couldn’t have imagined.
In order to make amends with my remodeling company (guilt from making one too many change orders), I agreed to help out by ordering some of the materials myself. Little did I know that nothing I needed would be in stock at a local store and I would be at the mercy of websites.
The mission: Order a tub.
The challenge: Maneuver a home improvement store’s web site and order the correct item – a 60×32 tub with right hand drain.
It sounds simple enough, right? It would have been, if the necessary metadata were in place.
With specs in hand, I attacked the internet with gusto. After searching a home improvement store’s site for a while, I decided to use the site’s “compare” feature to narrow my choices. And that’s where it all went downhill. As I scanned the specs for each item, I could not believe my eyes. A 999 foot high shower wall? A 999 foot wide tub? Would this item really fit in anyone’s house? And why does a different field say it’s 60 inches wide? Why would somebody fill all of these fields with what seemed to be garbage data? Needing a rational answer (i.e. proof that the company didn’t have a master data management solution or data governance), I searched for information on the company.
After a few minutes, I found an article talking about how the company had reached its goal for product master data quality – a metric related to the percent completion of product metadata. Ready to wave a judgemental finger, I was all set to send some unsolicited advise to the company. Luckily, a little voice just wouldn’t let me push the send button. “What about YOUR measures?” Wow, what a reality check!
I started to think about how we can select measures that make sense and truly assess progress toward the goal that we want to meet. If the goal was to provide a positive experience to the customer (ideally, a “compare” utility would have been a great way to entice customers), shouldn’t the measure of data quality be something that supports that goal? While measuring completeness can be a good thing, in this case, correctness was probably at least, if not more, important. It left me wondering if the chosen metric was a factor in the decision to fill fields with incorrect values.
So I was left asking myself a few questions:
- Are my metrics aligned with my goal – the true goal- or are they just something I can easily calculate and show on a dashboard?
- Could my metrics encourage behaviour that would conflict with my goal?
Who knew that an experience in home improvement could have invaded my professional life and made such an impact? I guess that sometimes you get more than a nice room from a remodel!
NOTE: Thoughts expressed in this blog are those of the author and not her employer.