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Prevent senseless data capture

Last time I blogged a rallying cry to start capturing data. This time I write about when that might not make sense at all. I call it senseless data capture, and as this is a serious concern for businesses (more than for your own personal data capture), I give some advice on how to prevent it in an organisation.

With the immense increase in the amount of data that is being captured, we must not forget the information value chain:

Data –> Information –> Knowledge –>Action

First, data is just a written representation of something. And did you know that Platon (the ancient philosopher) actually argued against writing things down? He was concerned about the inferiority of written communication as opposed to verbal dialog (something we are reminded of again and again in e-mail discussions gone awry), but he also believed, that when you represent a concept by writing it down, you are only capturing a very poor version of the truth. This is also why we enrich data through the information value chain.

When we add meaning and context to our data it becomes information, further enriching it may become knowledge, and maybe eventually something we can use to decide the right actions. But the point is, that these enrichment steps always come with a cost. And while new technology dramatically increases our ability to capture more and more data, the technology advancements that aim to automate the later stages of the chain, especially around turning knowledge into actions, i.e. decision support or “true” Business Intelligence, just move slower.

The data capture and enrichment costs that we incur are related to

  • Data maintenance staff
  • Hardware and software costs, including storage, clouds, apps, SaaS and what have you
  • Time spent on data cleansing and creating reports and analysis
  • Costly projects to integrate systems and harmonize data

– and many more – the point is, that you and your organisation could be spending your resources better.

So how do we prevent senseless data capture? Here is some advice for businesses

  • Lock down data input fields in your ERP system that you don’t need
  • Only copy stuff to your Data Warehouse if it’s actually needed for analysis
  • If you find you’ve captured data that you’re not taking action on, delete it, and stop capturing it
  • Train your employees to capture less data (e.g. in personal spreadsheets)

That’s it for now. I hope this may improve your ability to strike the right balance between valuable and senseless data capture.


About Thomas Holmen

I have a profound passion for technology and how we use it to transform our lives and businesses. As Principal Consultant for Platon, my mission is to improve the way companies manage and use information. My primary tool set holds Data Governance, Master Data Management, and SAP architecture and technology.


One thought on “Prevent senseless data capture

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