In my last post, I railed about the Netflix decision to split its service into two, a move that would have caused myriad data management problems. (Again, Netflix wisely backed off this move, although I seriously doubt that CEO Reed Hastings read any posts on this sites about why that was such a bad idea.)
I didn’t intend to write a second post about duplicate data but, as it turns out, I have much more to say about these types of problems. But rather than complain, I’m going to tell this story through a narrative.
Yes, I’m channeling my inner screenwriter.
It’s 8 am on a Thursday and a certain Rush-loving new Las Vegas resident is trying to access his account online for his new home security company. He’s back from DataFlux IDEAS and has to catch up on a few things. He’s having problems logging in and finally bites the bullet and calls customer service.
PHIL: Hello. I can’t seem to access the site on which I pay my bill. (He provides the requisite verification information.) The site tells me that I’m not registered but I know that I did this. I currently am on (insert name of “other” security website) as we speak.
REP: I’m sorry, sir. You did not sign up for the monitoring service. I don’t see it on my screen.
PHIL: I disagree. I specifically signed up for that service and have logged into that site as we were talking. I’ll invite you to share my screen now.
REP: (Declines offer.) Hmmm…Let me pull up the other system.
Mumbling in the background.
PHIL: Well? (Thinking to himself, what other system?)
REP: OK, I’ve found you now. I didn’t know that you were in the other system because few of our customers actually sign up for monitoring. There was no way for me to have known.
PHIL: So, let me get this straight. Your company maintains two different systems and databases for each customer? Does that make sense to you? Don’t you think that that would cause confusion for both you and customers?
REP: (Begins to give lame and longwinded explanation of recent merger activity that seems unrelated to the problem at hand).
PHIL (becoming more irritated): This is not the way to manage your data. I know that you don’t set the company information management policy, but at least acknowledge that this is hardly ideal for anyone. Throw me a bone here?
REP: (Continues explanation of recent company acquisition and why two products and services ought to be in two different systems. Phil just hears “blah, blah, blah…”)
PHIL: So next time, you not only want me to identify myself and provide a number, address, and answer to the secret question. I have to remember that you should go to one of your system, not the another?
REP: (Grudgingly admits that yes, he needs to do this.)
For the sake of all that is holy, get your data into one system. Even duplicate records within the same system (while annoying) trump multiple systems. At least with the former, you can query all people named Phil Simon and ask if I’m the right one. Forcing people to move between and/or among different applications is a recipe for confusion.
Avoid it at all costs.
What say you?