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Archive for May, 2011

by: Robert.hillard
28  May  2011

Can we make the Information Revolution better for society?

It is easy to assume that access to massive amounts of information is good for society.  Perhaps we should also look at the role the move to an Information Economy is having on the reversal of generations of movement towards greater social equality.

The growth of the state between the early twentieth century and the 1970s brought with it higher taxes and a major a redistribution of wealth. In the UK the wealthiest 1% of the population saw their share of total wealth shrink from 70% in 1913 to 20% in 1980 (source: Deloitte Global Economic Outlook, 2nd quarter 2011).

What many people have not yet realised is that the trend towards greater equality has gone into reverse since the 1980s.  Also reported in the same Deloitte report, Credit Suisse estimates that today less than half of one percent of the world’s adult population owns 36 percent of the world’s private wealth.  The reasons in many countries for increasing inequality are complex but are significantly exacerbated by the shift to lower top rates of income tax around the world.

The reasons for this push to reduce the top rates are complex, but they aren’t purely economic, they also relate to the ability of those who are paying the top rates to make their case in the political arena.

Does the move from an economy of production to one that is driven by information change the make-up of business leaders?  Has something changed about the makeup of the most financially successful members of society?

Globalisation and industrial change has reduced the returns to unskilled labour.  Knowledge based industries such as finance and technology have emerged as major employers and value creators in the economy.  Their demand for highly skilled workers have increased the payoff to employees with a university education. Cognitive skills are especially valuable in a knowledge economy.

Paying an increasing premium for well educated, articulate, informed and connected (in a information rather than a power sense) staff changes the dynamic of those in the top tier of remuneration in society.  When owners of factories, large farming establishments and transport businesses were in this position, they might have complained about the rate of tax that they paid, but they were no more equipped than society as a whole to influence change.

While it has always been true that education and access to information positioned citizens well for a good rate of pay, the correlation with remuneration is much stronger than it has ever been.  In effect, those who cannot navigate the information age and its resources are at a great disadvantage

The solutions to this inequality are many and complex, but the information management profession have an important role to play.  First, we need to recognise that access to complex information is the right of all within a society and these resources need to be structured in a way that are broadly accessible rather than obscured through technology.  Second, we need to simplify complex roles in organisations that require significant skill to link together disparate datasets from across the enterprise (opening-up information roles to a wider workforce).  Finally, we need to explain to politicians the changes in business and its impact on the wider economy.

In the 1960s, in response to the United Nations “Development Decade”, the then UN Secretary General, U Thant, said: “It is no longer resources that limit decisions.  It is the decision that makes the resources.”  It was arguably becoming true in the 1960s.  It could not be more true in the twenty-first century.  Information management professionals can help enable those decisions to put more of the resources in the hands of as many people as possible.

Category: Information Management
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by: Phil Simon
26  May  2011

Too Big to Succeed

By now, we’ve all heard the term too big to fail. Billions of dollars in bail-outs were required to save enormous financial institutions that had to survive, even with massive government loans.

Think about its counterpart: Too big to succeed.

A large health care organization with which I was working (call it “Company X” here) needs me to do an application upgrade of its time and attendance system. It’s a big project, but far short of a new ERP implementation. We agree on rate, contract language, and start date. IT sends consultants a 15-page instruction sheet just to connect to its intranet.

Let me repeat that: Fifteen pages.

Upon finally connecting through a absurd maze of installations, authentications, passwords, pass codes (not to be confused with passwords), token IDs, and PINs, my PC got the blue screen of death. I repeated the process and saw the same result, reminding me of Einstein’s definition of insanity.

After speaking to the IT person who no doubt developed this “simple” document (her words), tensions rose. Clearly, the problem was on my end in her jaundiced view. It should be no surprise that the work Company X contracted me to do has been attempted twice before–and failed each time.

I suggested an easier alternative for me to connect to the company’s intranet–a secure one that I have used with many other clients. Functional end users agreed that getting me connected was a priority and that the current process could only be described as byzantine.

The IT department nixed it with that wonderful line: that’s not the way we do things here. One thing led to another, and we agreed to part ways.


If connecting to a network is such a challenge, what are the odds that:

  • I won’t have additional issues connecting to the other systems and databases to which I need access?
  • Company X’s data is in good shape?
  • Its employees know its business processes and policies?
  • Ultimately, the project would be successful?

If your answers to these questions are along the lines of not great, then you and I are on the same page.

Simon Says

Look: it’s not 1997. If getting key people access to networks and systems requires more than a few clicks, something’s wrong. If you can’t get an accurate, comprehensive, and detailed list of your most important customers, something’s wrong. I could keep going, but you get my drift.

Is your organization encumbered by internal obstacles that makes getting things done impossible? Are you able to accomplish what you want and need because of things–or in spite of them?


What say you?

Tags: ,
Category: Information Management

by: Bsomich
26  May  2011

Information Governance: Do you have a plan?

A successful enterprise is largely dependant on how well information policies are evaluated and adapted as business priorities and market conditions evolve. 

Still, many organizations do not have a formal information governance strategy in place.   An EIU research survey of senior executives from leading companies around the world found that nearly two-thirds (62%) of companies have no formal information governance program in place, a concerning trend that can leave many corporations underperforming and open to preventable risks to sensitive information.

In your experience, why is this?   Is it lack of time and resources?  Or unacknowledgment of the benefits of information governance and the risks if avoided?

Category: Information Development

by: Phil Simon
20  May  2011

The Data Paradox

Think about the following:

  • Organization data is typically in tatters. The bigger the organization, the more messy things are.
  • Sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook are almost too good at letting you manage your own data.

If you’re like me, you often wonder about these ostensibly unrelated things. Can someone say paradox? The results of these two contradictory facts are more than a little intriguing. Consider the following:

Facebook advertisers can accurately target men over 35 who enjoy the show Breaking Bad and listen to Dream Theater and reside in New Jersey. (Yes, I would qualify here.) At the same time, many employees of a company turn to LinkedIn to find out who’s responsible for an area of marketing within their own company. (I really wish that I were making that up.)


The contrast is stark. Concurrently, some sites or platforms house astonishingly personal information about hundreds of millions of people while many organizations’ HR departments struggle with producing a simple org chart for 1,000 folks. Why?

Sure, company size is a contributing factor. It’s easier in a company of ten people to know who does what than a company of 10,000. That’s a given. And the economy is surely a factor. I have little doubt that many organizations’ layoffs have adversely affected different administrative processes. They’ve probably exacerbated already poor situations.

But there’s more going on here. We both know it. I’m talking about data ownership.

In his truly fascinating book, Pull, David Siegel writes about the semantic web. Web 3.0 will, at least in part, be enabled by personal data lockers (PDLs). PDLs will have massive ramifications in a number of areas, especially with regard to data management.

For example, in what will amount to nothing less than a major paradigm shift, customer relationship management will ultimately be replaced by vendor relationship management. In laymen’s terms, companies will no longer be responsible for maintaining accurate information about their customers’ addresses, credit card numbers, and the like. Rather, customers will be responsible for maintaining their own personal information. Updates to addresses and payment information will cascade to different organizations’ internal systems, leading to increased efficiencies and dramatically reducing incorrectly addressed mail and other annoyances.

No one said that this is going to happen anytime soon, but it will happen.

Simon Says

There is a middle ground here. No one is saying that employees ought to be responsible for maintaining their own salaries. At the same time, though, employee self-service technology has existed for years that enables employees to maintain their own addresses, tax information, benefits, and the like. Lamentably, many organizations have failed to take advantage of these applications. They’ll tell you that they don’t have the budget or that it’s not a priority right now.

Even worse, some have actually spent the time, money, and effort implementing these technologies only to cancel their deployments because of a wide variety issues. Excuses typically come down to:

  • They don’t trust our employees to maintain their own information.
  • Misplaced security concerns.

Of course, all of this is bunk. These people are really saying that they need to protect their own jobs, even if employees can maintain their own data much more effectively than HR departments can. Facebook and LinkedIn are cases in point.


What say you?

Tags: ,
Category: Data Quality, Information Management, Semantic Web
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by: Wmcknight
19  May  2011

Have Your Solutions Been Force-Fit?

I was speaking to the account manager for vendor A, at a client about 6 months ago. The client had a serious business challenge but unfortunately, as I saw it, there were no tools for the challenge in the account manager’s bag. However, I knew of a tool from another vendor, vendor B, that was spot-on to the problem. Vendor B had nothing competitive with vendor A. A “solution” using vendor A’s products would clearly be exorbitantly expensive for the client, risky, and a first-time-ever solution involving vendor A development staff. The client is midsize and has no capacity for such activity. So, I mentioned I would introduce this vendor B product to the client. It’s a client-centered approach and obviously we both want to see the client succeed so he was fully on board with the idea and even offered to arrange the meeting.

I’m joking.

He went nuts at the idea and threatened to “ruin me” to the client. His language was extreme like that. He seemed prepared to give it all up for this cause – and I do mean give it all up. I was making sure I had enough distance in case he decided to lunge at me!

I talked him off the ledge and made him see my solution was a win-win for him and the client. If the client is unsuccessful, so is he, and the client needed the tool he didn’t have in order to succeed. There really was no way his solution would have worked. In a few months, it would have been ugly.

I’ll even go so far as to say this young account manager had not heard of such an approach before. And so it goes. A lot goes on behind the scenes that a client is not privileged to see. I would recommend a real consultative approach for account managers and I do see it quite frequently too.

It’s easy when the rep is carrying a full bag o’ software for a client’s narrow needs. When things get gray, that’s when the fun begins. And clients may have preferred vendors, but most have many – and consequently consider many choices when it comes time for software.

It’s a matter of knowing when to sell, not just how to sell that tiers account managers into different levels of success over the long run.

Category: Information Development
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by: Bsomich
18  May  2011

Profile Spotlight: Graham Rhind

Graham Rhind

Graham Rhind has specialised for over 16 years in international address and postal code methodologies. He started by building the European database of Scitex SA in Brussels, and then became Research and Development Director for OTS Group in The Netherlands. He is now an independent consultant and owner of GRC Database Information.

His researches have led him to write three books, “Building and Maintaining a European Direct Marketing Database” (1994) , “Global Source Book for Address Database Management” (1998, updated twice annually) and “Practical International Data Management – A guide to working with global names and addresses”(2001).

He is a regular speaker at conferences and seminars, and has developed a range of software and reference data for optimal international address data standardisation, formatting, validation and de-duplication. He was the Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Internet Marketing in 2002.

Graham is a charter member of the International Association for Information and Data Quality.

Connect with Graham

Category: Information Development
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by: Robert.hillard
14  May  2011

Is Information Management an evolution or a revolution?

I was recently asked by ABC Radio National in Australia to explain the principles behind my book, Information-Driven Business.  The following is extracted from the program or you can listen to the full broadcast online.

I’ve spent more than twenty years looking at how having large quantities of complex information affects every part of our lives.  Whether it is your health and welfare, or the approval of your home loan, I cannot overstate how important the recent accumulation of vast quantities of complex data about each of us has been.  Just a few years ago, who would have imagined that a company like Google would have a photo of almost every house in major cities in Australia or that so many of us would share large amounts of personal information through Facebook?

I’ve also had a life-long fascination with science and mathematics.  I’ve watched the enormous development of ideas in computing and it has often occurred to me that we are particularly bad at learning from other, more mature fields – particularly science.  The last few decades of development of information technology has seen new generations of enthusiastic entrepreneurs develop their ideas as if nothing they did had ever been thought of before.

Online shopping sites might offer great new features, but they don’t really change the idea of a traditional store or a mail-order catalogue.  Banks may be offering us new forms of credit but the idea of a home loan hasn’t really been challenged.  In both cases, businesses have evolved an existing set of business processes without really challenging who holds what information and when they hold it.

To understand the opportunity that business, consumers and societies have today, we need to go right back to the industrial revolution.  The changes then triggered an exodus of people from agriculture to manufacturing, from rural to urban settings.  Today we are in the midst of an information revolution.  This revolution is triggering a move of many jobs across global borders and the removal of many unskilled roles from the workforce.

This revolution has also seen an enormous quantity of personal information move into private hands through social media, marketing databases and also more detailed credit checks.  Previously this would have just belonged to government, or if business held it they wouldn’t have been able to compile or analyse it as it would have been written on paper buried in filing cabinets.

If you watched the science fiction movie, Minority Report, in 2002 you might have wondered at the way Tom Cruise was able to sift through data with a wave of his hand and you were probably dazzled by the wall of the store that greeted him by name and knew what his last purchase was.  Both of these innovations aren’t the vision of a distant future, rather they are here now with products like the iPad which sweeps in the same way and customised messaging in stores based on our loyalty cards or even a connection with our mobile phone.

Modern business has evolved from the industrial revolution.  The problem we face today in navigating the information revolution is that the industrial revolution taught us to use the principles of processes.  Two centuries of business has slavishly adhered to the idea that commercial and government enterprises are nothing more than the aggregate output of thousands of individual business processes.  Because no-one alive today has experienced any other form of business interaction we can be forgiven for thinking that there is no other alternative.

But we should wonder whether it is the right approach.  By learning why we have a process-oriented approach to business, we can then question whether we have really thought deeply about it.  The trigger for my doubt is that very few other things that we experience in other fields are oriented around processes.

The telephone network is very efficient at joining two people together by analysing source and destination and finding the shortest path between the two.  Social networks are very efficient as evidenced by the small number of steps to required connect anyone with anyone else on the planet and it doesn’t seem to matter what culture or society norms are in place between the two people (just think “six degrees of separation”).

Traditional business, however, relies on processes and is really very inefficient.  Just ask anyone who has ever tried to change their utility bill details or arrange a new mortgage.

Most of science and mathematics does not lend itself well to this process paradigm.  Having said that, business borrows from the small number of such examples that we do have.  Think of terms like “an idea’s half life” (borrowing from nuclear reactions to describe how new concepts need to be implemented quickly to have an impact) or “catalyst for change” (borrowing from chemistry to describe how certain actions in business have an additional and beneficial impact).  Hence, if the few examples we find already draw from the real world, then if there were more they would be likely to already appear as common business metaphors.

Of course, fields related to modern business do borrow from science.  The field of economics borrows from thermodynamics.  Modern fund managers are very familiar with using principles evolved from chaos mathematics which underpin predictive models used to support their investment in securities markets.

I argue though, that such ideas are limited to small aspects of business and by-and-large process-oriented organisations are not borrowing from science or any other field of human endeavour.  The information revolution provides the impetus to change.

Allow me to illustrate.  Consider a home loan that is written in a bank branch.  In years gone by, a paper application would have been provided to a supervisor who would have reviewed it when they had time.  If the amounts exceeded their approval threshold, they would have forwarded it upwards for further approval.  Today, this is all done electronically – but inevitably that electronic process mimics the paper one – we are continuing to use a paper process metaphor because it is what we know.  But an optimised business would have many eyes on the same application with the first available supervisor anywhere in the world being able to approve it if it met their desired criteria.

The result of the information revolution is a new paradigm.  The “information-driven business”, as opposed to the process-driven business.  This new form of enterprise is engineered around information without being tied to an individual process or activity.  Customer information doesn’t really need to be defined by how it was collected as it usually is today.  When you provide your personal details through a call centre for an electricity utility company you shouldn’t need to repeat yourself a year later when you move again and use the internet to request a service at your new address.

Once business has been freed from its process straightjacket, we have the opportunity to create a much more dynamic organization that looks more organic than artificial.  Ideas (that is products or services) can be combined or divided at will and to achieve the best possible economic or social outcome.  In a world where processes are increasingly outsourced, and physical products are being manufactured en-mass by labour efficient countries, it is incredibly important that we value information more highly than any individual transaction or process that supports the transaction.  What is more important to a department store, the completion of the sale of an individual item or the knowledge of the customer that enables the store to service him or her for many years?

My book, Information-Driven Business, takes this concept to the logical conclusion and provides methods for estimating the quantity, usability and value of information that we interact with in all aspects of commercial and government business.  These techniques apply the principles of thermodynamics through entropy, mathematics through graph theory and physics through complexity theory.  I argue that the value of modern business is largely tied-up in its intangible information.  Consider what would happen to the value of any company if you reformatted every hard disk in the organisation.

Fortuitously, at the same time that we are reconsidering the role of information in business, many branches of science are beginning to see information not as a by-product of something physical but rather the important thing in its own right.  This should be no surprise when we consider quantum mechanics of the past eighty years where we have realised that the information we retrieve about an experiment means we have adjusted the result.  Increasingly information is not a window on our universe, rather it is our universe.

The comparison between physics and business is only valid because the organisations we have built today have become so complex that it is impossible to predict in advance how they will respond to any given event or change.  What we can do, though, is predict general behaviours by looking at what information relationships exist.

In my book I provide a technique for determining the information linkages within an organisation –that is how well connected information from one part of the organisation is to information in other parts of the enterprise.

As we get better at using all of the data and information, it has greater value and market forces have naturally encouraged more of these linkages.

This has continued a long-term trend to see business consolidate and continue to get larger. However something has now changed that we need to understand.  During the past decade information standards have begun to emerge and gain acceptance.  Perhaps the most important is the eXtensible Business Reporting Language, a data standard that is used by businesses and governments around the world – including in Australia.

With information standards we are now seeing businesses decide not to merge but rather form information alliances and to trade information in real-time to provide a customer with an integrated product.  Think, for instance, about travel products and the number of individual businesses that are typically now involved in a single transaction but all appearing under the one banner. These can include the airline’s flights, an alliance airline’s connecting flights, rental cars, hotel accommodation, travel insurance and airport valet parking.  This example might seem obvious, but it has far reaching implications in the segmentation of the value chain.  For the first time in a very long time, agility is likely to drive companies to get smaller without the balancing factor of scale being needed to take an integrated product to market.

The worth of each contributing business is in how it adds information value and how it enhances the product as a whole.  With such complex partnering of many organisations, there isn’t time for a waterfall business process to form.  There is time, if we’re not careful however, for a chaotic system to form, which by its nature will provide a result which the members of the joint venture cannot predict.

In the travel example, chaos could result from the combination of different accommodation and airline loyalty schemes participating in the same product with different rules.  Can I claim hotel points if I’ve paid by redeeming airline points?  Does a credit card provider, also providing points, get access to information about the whole transaction?  With these different combinations there might be different cost and margin implications which, in-turn, cause participants to add surcharges or provide further discounts.  Does each participant need to offer the best price at every point in time, or can they discount to different channels?  Even small changes in the rules of information exchange and associated pricing can completely change whether customers are better to go via the airline, hotel or bring their constituent parts together through individual travel websites – reducing the integrated value that businesses participating in the alliance are able to provide.

With such complex relationships, the participants can do well to learn from the synergies of a biological ecosystem rather than try to predict every process pathway that a customer might choose to use.  In some cases organisms within an ecosystem can be in competition, offer each other synergies and be “food” for one another all at the same time.  Business of the twenty-first century echoes these same biological relationships.

The information revolution provides us a unique opportunity to re-invent business.  The techniques we will use to develop new approaches to everything from supermarkets to airlines will borrow less from business processes of the twentieth century and far more from physics, chemistry, biology and mathematics.  The people who are going to be best placed to invent this new world of business are the very people who have often felt most alienated from it – science graduates.

Category: Information Management, Information Strategy

by: Sean.mcclowry
13  May  2011

OpenCCS: Applying lessons from MIKE2.0

So I’ve been REALLY bad about contributing to MIKE2.0 this past year and its taken a 3-hour train ride in the UK to get me writing again. Now is a good time for an update though as I’m fresh off a conference where I introduced OpenCCS (Carbon Capture and Storage) – which in many ways is inspired by MIKE2.0.

About a year ago I took a job at the Global CCS Institute to lead up knowledge sharing. Its been a great experience to move into the energy / climate change space. We’re doing some interesting things and OpenCCS is one of them. Like MIKE2.0, OpenCCS is a methodology to accelerate deployment of a certain kind of technology / process and attempts to help change and industry. The methodology works much the same way and I’m optimistic it will provide a lot of value to the industry. Check it out and let me know what you think.

Category: Sustainable Development
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by: Andreas.rindler
12  May  2011

Challenges creating MIKE2.0

Creating and constantly improving MIKE2.0 came with and still provides many challenges.

To develop an overarching framework of lessons learned, templates, guides, best practices, tools, models etc. from hundreds of projects was an incredible amount of work, mostly done by Sean McClowry and Rob Hillard, who are the creators of the methodology. Many late nights and long weekends in addition to their day jobs got MIKE2 to the starting line when it was recognized across BearingPoint as a major global asset.

Convincing the BearingPoint leadership (and legal) team that donating this valuable intellectual property to the open source community was a year-long effort which finally led to the release of the content under the Creative Commons Attribution License which allowed for public re-use and contributions, while still attributing the immense effort made by many to the individual who deserve it most.

Resolving the challenges around building a collaborative framework and collaboration platform that allowed for sharing, integrating, re-using and aggregating new content between the public and the many private elements of MIKE2.0 was no minor task. It was again Sean McClowry, this time with help from Andreas Rindler, to develop the Integrated Content Repository and omCollab, the Enterprise 2.0 collaboration platform that powers the MIKE2.0 website.

This big initial effort was only worth it, when in 2009 MIKE2.0 was finally put on a clear, safe (legally and financially) and independent footing with the founding of the MGA. Sven Mueller (on behalf of BearingPoint) and Rob Hillard (on behalf of Deloitte) supported again by Sean and Andreas secured the funding and legal support to make this happen.

The ongoing challenge for MIKE2.0 remains the constant tendering to its community of contributors, keeping the momentum & buzz going, which is only possible by the dedication and enthusiasm by Brenda Somich who has been the community manager for MIKE2.0 since 2009. Equally important, Kevin Wang has been the technical manager for the website and the technology, keeping the lights on and the website up and running.

Awards and recent news

MIKE2.0 has been recognized by the information management profession in many ways.

  • In Groundswell: Winning in a world transformed by social technologies, authors Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff present a case study on MIKE2.0
  • AIIM, the Association for Image and Information Management, has incorporated key elements of MIKE2.0 in its training curriculum
  • The MDM Institute, under leadership by Aaron Zornes, listed MIKE2.0’s information governance approach in the top tier of all “Data Governance for Master Data Management” approaches
  • IDC recognized MIKE2.0 as a “a clever, differentiated strategy”
  • Most recently, Rob Hillard and Andreas Rindler appeared on the BBC Radio 4 programme In Business with Peter Day to discuss Infomania and the value of information, with several ideas based on MIKE2.0


Note: This content was part of a guest contribution to “MIKE2.0 Open Framework Is An Intelligent Approach For Overcoming Information Management Challenges” at


Category: MIKE2.0

by: Bsomich
12  May  2011

Getting to the Root Cause of Data Quality Issues.

As a marketing manager, my primary responsibility is to build marketing campaigns that make people want to use our products.  To do this I need to have solid data to work from, such as contact information, needs, and levels of interest about our prospects and clients. For this reason, my marketing database (or CRM in this case) is as valuable to me as any campaign I can dream of, as the strength of my campaign is only as good as the quality of data used to design it.

Locating and addressing the root cause of data quality issues is paramount in conducting efficient business operations in any organizational department.  Here’s a quick framework of how I do it:

1) Define the problem. Without trying to solve it, I make a statement as to what the problem is. What is wrong with what and include the frequency and isolation of occurrence if possible.

2) Gather facts. Again, without trying to solve the problem, I collect as much data ABOUT the problem as I can, asking other team members for input and looking for patterns as I go.

3) Compare and relate. Do any of the facts I’ve gathered relate exclusively to the problem I’ve described? If yes, list them.

4) Determine probable causes. Use deductive reasoning to weed out possibilities and identify your probable root causes, keeping in mind you’ll likely have more than one.

5) Test and check. Test each probable cause and check results to see which causes the problem to occur.

Root Cause Analysis in Practice

Here’s the theory in practice.  Imagine I need to build a contact information report for my sales team that is based on geographic territories. I set up the report and hit run, but the report only shows 10% of records with a state field.

1) Problem: Contact information report is missing state field on 90% of records.

2) Facts: There are no known performance issues with the database. The contract information report is built correctly (pulling the desired data fields with the desired filters). State fields were imported recently and this is the first time I’ve ran a report using State as a field.

3) Exclusive Facts: The contract information report is built correctly (pulling the desired data fields with the desired filters). State fields were imported recently and this is the first time I’ve ran a report using State as a field.

4) Probable cause: State fields were not imported correctly.

5) Test: Create a file to import with test data where state should be. Import the file and check results. Still not imported correctly? This is your likely root cause.

For more assistance with locating, and more importantly, addressing data quality issues, MIKE2.0 offers an open source solution to help address and correct them. Check it out when you have a moment.


Category: Information Development
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