Quality of Historical Data in .NET

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The older the data, the more data quality problems you will nd The most accurate data tends to be the current data Over time, enhancements are made to operational systems that tighten up controls for data entry and processing Business processes improve to make it a standard part of each work ow to capture critical data New systems are developed and implemented that include data collection to support reporting and analysis All of these improve the quality of the data Historical data does not bene t from these improvements and therefore often has the worst quality It is important to evaluate the business bene t of making bad historical data available Keep in mind that the effort to work through data problems is often grossly underestimated These estimates are usually based upon known problems There are also many other problems
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Part III
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Dealing with the Data
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that have yet to be discovered and may prove to be dif cult to diagnose and even more dif cult to correct The business value of the oldest historical data must be scrutinized For retail organizations, what was hot three years ago is unlikely to be an indicator of what will be hot this year, such as in the fashion industry Historical data may indicate the volume of the fashionable items that are sold, but may yield little insight into which items are more likely to be trendy Conversely, actuaries want all data possible from all hurricanes since data was collected This long-term history is useful to feed statistical models A reasonable goal for data quality should be set remember, accuracy appropriate for use These goals can set to higher levels as the organization, both business and IT, learn more about the problems that exist with historical data and techniques to address them Don t be afraid to back down from a goal that is too lofty to start with Focus on getting better data into the hands of decision makers as soon as possible This may even help to identify problems and determine the possible value of addressing those problem(s) You learned about data pro ling is the section on data quality; historical data is an excellent place to use these tools and techniques
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This case study comes from a real-world scenario Many other organizations may have had a similar experience This is not a recommended approach, but is included to highlight the need to continuously review the business value of major project choices The organization needed to have ve years of historical transactions to support its analysis A new operational system was implemented two years ago Two different sets of work needed to be done: one to load the history from the old system and one to develop a process to load historical and current data from the new system A decision was made to start with the oldest data rst The strategy was to load the data in historical order, oldest to newest Once the ETL processes were built, loading the rst three years was started The goal was to be able to include all transactions Many problems were discovered in the historical data, which did not meet the current data quality objectives While most of the data was ne, 5% of the transactions had problems Detailed research was required to discover how to handle these outliers The ETL developers dutifully adhered to their instructions to clean all of the data Many hours were spent researching the errors in a small number of transactions, using the time of the most skilled and experienced resources As usual, this took far longer than anyone expected It took two years to load three years of the oldest data Now the development to extract data from the new operational system could begin At this point, the data warehouse still did not contain data that could be used to support any reporting or analysis (continued)
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