Safe Harbor

Inspiration.

So I’m on an airplane, again, and another inspiration seems to have struck me, just as the seat in front of me struck my knees when the passenger up there decided to recline.

Actually, inspiration struck me a couple days ago when one of those emails that most people would call spam hit my inbox. This one was from a university advertising an all new, totally online Masters degree program in Data Analytics. Of course, being an analyst, my curiosity was peaked. So I did what every marketer hopes happens, I clicked to open the email. (Seriously, I didn’t even consider the fact that it could be a scam or some unsavory character phishing for my identity.) I then did what I usually do when I open this type of email, I click the link…no, this time I’m kidding. I hit up Google and did a search for the university in question. What I found was a properly accredited university offering a great, totally online program in a field that I have been wanting to learn more about for a few years now. The tag line of the message in the email about this program was “Big data, big opportunities.”

Big Data.

As someone who has considered himself a data analyst for many years, and one who feels like he has dealt with big data before, the topic still fascinates me. I’ve often told people that my job is to translate data into meaningful information, which means I am a detective, searching to find what story all the data is trying to tell. I’ve worked for a university and helped them install a new student accounting system that took the staff through a leap from a weekly updated set of microfilm, to a real-time, online system, updated instantly. Talk about a leap of faith! This ‘big’ data jump was not without it’s share of problems, and even though we successfully tested (and properly balanced) the new system, and tested the conversion routines not once, not even twice, but seven times prior to doing it in the production system, it still did not balance when we did it for real. $42 Million in accounts receivables, and we were off by $107.25. What a way to cap off several months of hard work. Complete and total failure. Great! (editors note – please be sure you have read that last sentence with the appropriate amount of sarcasm!) This failure kicked off what I thought wa showing to be the start of a long and grueling weekend of cross checking, rebalancing, auditing and caffeine, hoping to discover where the missing $107.25 wound up.

I was searching big data, but without a modern tool to query with. Much to my surprise, finding the missing money was actually quite easy. It was the last record in the file, and out of the millions of records, it was the only one that was exactly $107.25! Yes! We are balanced. TURN ON THE NEW SYSTEM AND LET’S GET ROLLING!

Oh wait a second, we found the money, but not the account it was supposed to be charged to. Too late, we are live. The Vice President (of the university) said we had better go live on time, or we had better all start looking for other employment. Feeling confident that I could solve this mystery, if given enough time, we created a new account: “Unknown Student” and began moving all unidentified dollars to that account. After much searching, and getting down to the smallest detail, we successfully identified the correct accounts for all the mystery money.

A solution.

Customer data. Call it big data, call it small data. I think it really doesn’t matter how much data there is, as long as you understand what it all means.

Here’s a great way to better your understanding of your customer data: attend Dreamforce, San Francisco, November 18-22, 2013. Register at http://www.dreamforce.com and you too can become a Customer Company.

Save $100!

Use promo code D13MVPREF to save $100 on your registration!

Get to know the Community.

Want another way to help you understand how to make the most of your customer data and your Salesforce implementation? Get connected with a local user group! Find yours at http://success.salesforce.com/usergroups

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