A Word To The Wise

An example of a complex data translation job that was not taken up gives you the idea of the potential pain that can be avoided had appropriate solutions been applied.

We were invited at the 11th hour to help a large corporate translate approximately 1 million business-critical highly ambiguous and ‘dirty’ records. The entity was centralising their key data to a new system. Our task would have been to replace the human labour force doing the translation work. When we analysed the task, it appeared that although management had planned to have the job completed two months previously, in fact it would take a minimum of a further 9 months with given resources, having already run over a year, and something upper management were completely unaware of.

We proposed a solution that would require two weeks set-up and then would be able to run in parallel with whichever solution they otherwise were committed to. This was based on a set of forensics completed during our analysis of their problem.

However just before we were about to commit to the project, a management authorisation was agreed to a request made prior to our involvement to provide approximately a further 30 staff to speed up their manual processing throughput in an attempt to meet the looming penalties that would apply if the data was not available within their deadline.

At this time, having faith in their solution, we were no longer deemed necessary by the new management team. After further cost overruns of around 1.5 Million pounds – not including indirect costs and poor data quality – the job was completed 5 months later just within the penalty deadline. In order to achieve this, a further 30 staff were hired on top of the two previous teams, resulting in a total extra workforce of about 60 staff – post our involvement.

This resulted in at least two senior management (one at tier-two) losing their jobs.
However the greatest loss, in our opinion, was the significant advantage our technology-based solution had to offer:

  • Knowledge of the data and translation would be retained indefinitely by the systems. At any time we could re-run the entire translation process within days to apply fixes and improvements discovered post-processing – enhancing the data quality and value at very low cost.
  • Reuse knowledge captured by our solution for further automations downstream of the initial job – at a fraction of the cost of a human labour solution.
  • This is particularly appropriate for high-level business management decision making which could require the ability to use a model to provide quality what-if type answers.
  • Minimal impact on management, (given that the main ‘workforce’ in our solutions are computer systems, not people), due to our highly scalable computer based solution. In summary; short lead times, fast response, quick fixes, knowledge retained for the future.
  • Ability to cross-compare and parallel run with the human translated data, enhancing both solutions.
  • Ability to ‘test’ the automated solution in real time and data before deciding to retire the human workforce on the task. We proposed a per-transaction cost, thus enabling a minimum of cost to be burdened by our client.
  • Technology costs decrease over time while the quality will improve, this cannot be said for a human workforce.
  • The advantages of science over brute force.

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