Here is an interview with Dylan Jones the founder/editor of Dataqualitypro.com , the site to go to for anything related to Data Quality discussions. Dylan is a great charming person and in this interview talks candidly on his views.
Ajay: Describe your career in science and in business intelligence. How would you convince young students to take more maths and science courses for scientific careers.
Dylan: My main education for the profession was a degree in Information Technology and Software Development. No surprises what my first job entailed – software development for an IT company!
That role took me straight into the trials and tribulations of business intelligence and data quality. After a couple of years I went freelance and have pretty much worked for myself ever since. There has been a constant thread of data quality, business intelligence and data migration throughout my career which culminated in me setting up the more recent social media initiatives to try and pull professionals together in this space.
In all honesty, I’m probably the worst person to give career advice Ajay as I’m a hopeless dreamer. I’ve never really structured my career. I fell into data quality early on and it has led me to work in some wonderful places and with some great people, largely by accident and fate.
I have a simple philosophy, do what you love doing. I’m incredibly lucky to wake up every day with an absolute passion for what I do. In the past, whenever I have found myself working in a situation that I find soul destroying (and in our profession that can happen regularly) I move on to something new.
So, my advice for people starting out would be to first question what makes them happy in life. Don’t simply follow the herd. The internet has totally transformed the rules of the game in terms of finding an outlet for your skills so follow your heart, not conventional wisdom.
That said, I think there are some core skills that will always provide a springboard. Maths is obviously one of those skills that can open many doors but I would also advise people to learn about marketing, sales and other business fundamentals. From a business intelligence perspective it really adds an attractive dimension to your skills if you can link technical ability with a deeper understanding of how businesses operate.
Ajay You are a top expert and publisher on BI topics. Tell us something about
c) Involvement with the DataFlux community of experts
d) Your latest venture http://www.dqvote.com
Dylan- Data Migration Pro was my first foray into the social media space. I realised that very few people were talking about the challenges and techniques of data migration. On average, large organisations implement around 4 migration projects a year and most end in failure. A lot of this is due to a lack of awareness. Having worked for so long in this space I felt it was time to create a social media site to bring the wider community together. So we now have forums, regular articles, tools and techniques on the site with about 1400 members worldwide plus lots of plans in the pipeline for 2010.
Data Quality Pro followed on from the success of Data Migration Pro and our speed of growth really demonstrates how important data quality is right now. Again, awareness of the basic techniques and best-practices is key. I think many organisations are really starting to recognise the importance of better data quality management practices so a lot of our focus is on giving people practical advice and tools to get started. We are a community publishing platform, I do write regularly but we’ve always had a significant community contribution from expert practitioners and authors.
I didn’t just want to take a corporate viewpoint with these communities. As a result they are very much focused on the individual. That is why we post so many features on how to promote your skills, search for work, gain personal skills and generally get ahead in the profession. Data Quality Pro has just under 2,000 members and about 6,000 regular visitors a month so it demonstrates just how many people are really committed to learning about this discipline as it impacts practically every part of the business. I also think it is an excellent career choice as so many projects are dependent on good quality data there will always be demand.
The DataFlux community of experts is a great resource that I’ve actually admired for some time. I am a big fan of Jill Dyche who used to write on the community and of course there is a great line-up on there now with experts like David Loshin, Joyce Norris-Montanari and Mike Ferguson so I was delighted to be invited to participate. DataFlux have sponsored our sites from the very beginning and without their support we wouldn’t have grown to our current size. So although I’m vendor independent, it’s great to be sharing my thoughts and ideas with people who visit their site.
DQVote.com is a relatively new initiative. I noticed that there was some great data quality content being linked through platforms like Twitter but it would essentially become hard to find after several days. Also, there was no way for the community to vote on what content they found especially useful. DQVote.com allows people to promote their own content but also to vote and share other useful data quality articles, blogs, presentations, videos, tutorials – anything that adds value to the data quality community. It is also a great springboard for emerging data quality bloggers and publishers of useful content.
Ajay- Do you think BI projects can be more successful if we reward data entry people, or at least pay more for better quality data rather than ask them to fill in database tables as fast as they can? Especially in offshore call centres.
Dylan- Data entry is a pet frustration of mine. I regularly visit companies who are investing hundreds of thousands of pounds in data quality technology and consultants but nothing in grass-roots education and cultural change. They would rather create cleansing factories than resolve the issues at source.
So, yes I completely agree, the reward system has to change. I personally suffer from this all the time – call centre staff record incorrect or incomplete information about my service or account and it leads to billing errors, service problems, annoyance and eventually lost business. Call centre staff are not to blame, they are simply rewarded on the volume of customer service calls they can make, they are not encouraged to enter good quality data. The fault ultimately lies with the corporations that use these services and I don’t think offshore or onshore makes a difference. I’ve witnessed terrible data quality in-house also. The key is to have service level agreements on what quality of data is acceptable. I also think a reward structure as opposed to a penalty structure can be a much more progressive way of improving the quality of call-centre data.
Ajay- What are the top 5 things that you can help summarize your views on Business Intelligence – assume you are speaking to a class of freshmen statisticians.
Dylan- Business intelligence is wholly dependent on data quality. Accessibility, timeliness, accuracy, completeness, duplication – data quality dimensions like these can dramatically change the value of business intelligence to the organisation. Take nothing for granted with data, assume nothing. I have never, ever, assessed a dataset in a large business that did not have some serious data defects that were impacting decision making.
As statisticians, they therefore possess the tools to help organisations discover and measure these defects. They can find ways to continuously improve and ensure that future decisions are based on reliable data.
I would also add that business intelligence is not just about technology, it is about interpreting data to determine trends that will enable a company to improve their competitive advantage. Statistics are important but freshmen must also understand how organisations really create value for their customers.
My advice is to therefore step away from the tools and learn how the business operates on the ground. Really listen to workers and customers as they can bring the data to life. You will be able to create far more accurate dashboards and reports of where the issues and opportunities lie within a business if you immerse yourself with the people who create the data and the senior management who depend on the quality of your business intelligence platforms.
Ajay- Which software have you personally coded or implemented. Which one did you like the best and why?
Dylan- I’ve used most of the BI and DQ tools out there, all have strengths and weaknesses so it is very subjective. I have my favourites but I try to remain vendor neutral so I’ll have to gracefully decline on this one Ajay!
However, I did build a data profiling and data quality assessment tool several years ago. To be honest, that is the tool I like best because it had a range of features I still haven’t seen implemented so far in any other tools. If I ever get chance, and if no other vendor comes up with the same concept, I may yet take it to market. For now though, two young kids, two communities and a 12 hour day mean it is something of pipedream.
Ajay-What does Dylan Jones do when not helping data quality of the world go better.
Dylan- I’ve recently had another baby boy so kids take up most of whatever free time I have left. When we do get a break though I like to head to my home town and just hang out on the beach or go up into the mountains. I love travelling and as I effectively work completely online now, we’re really trying to figure out a way of combining travel and work.
Dylan Jones is the founder and editor of Data Quality Pro and Data Migration Pro, the leading online expert community resources. Since the early nineties he has been helping large organisations tackle major information management challenges. He now devotes his time to fostering greater awareness, community and education in the fields of data quality and data migration via the use of social media channels. Dylan can be contacted via his profile page at http://www.dataqualitypro.com/data-quality-dylan-jones/ or at http://www.twitter.com/dataqualitypro