Build me a database please...

All things change, and as data geeks we need to conform to these changes if we'd like to continue to be successful. In the news this morning we find that the US House of Representatives is directing the US Treasury Department to "build a database" of bank bailout information. To quote the leading congressional representative pushing the bill (representative Carolyn Maloney from New York): "In the simplest terms, my bill allows the question to be answered: where has the money gone?"

From a data practitioner's perspective, what I see here is the fact that the government's got case of the "Gimmies" (stands for Give-Me's). This particular strain of the "Gimmies" is known as the "build me a database" strain. I've seen many other strains of the "Gimmies" throughout my career such as (but not limited to):


  • I need my data fixed / cleaned up please
  • I need some reports please (I can't wait to tell you this story one of these days)
  • I need to do a merger/acquisition in 40 days please
  • I've got some data, build me a database please
    ...the list could go on and on...


    As you can see, for a moment I thought I had seen this particular strain of the "Gimmies" before. Upon further diagnosis I've found that this particular instance seems to be different though. In this case the patient seems to have already been diagnosed as right off the bat your hearing about symptoms which usually take some time to cull out with a case of the "Gimmies".
    Symptoms (aka requirements?) like:
    - Web-accessible
    - The database would integrate information from both public and private sources.
    - including regulatory filings
    - internal models
    - financial models
    - analytics associated with the financial assistance received under the TARP

    Staying clear of the political comments, what I find most interesting is the nomenclature. They are asking for what they are calling a "database" and what us data geeks would most likely call an entire data warehouse / Business Intelligence (BI) solution . So "what's changed?" you might ask. In the past I've have folks come to me with a case of the "Gimmies", strain "build me a database". What I've not seen is a case of the "Gimmies", strain "build me a data warehouse / BI solution" disguised as the strain "build me a database".

    Mental note here is that next time someone with the "Gimmies" comes to me for diagnosis I need to make sure I don't under-diagnose their particular strain and remedy their issue with a too-small scale solution.

    I'm looking forward to hearing more about this project as time progresses. I hope the team learns from the some of the pain the team at recovery.gov have felt. I'd love to know how the team plans to ensure Data Quality is being addressed from the beginning - as all too often it is an afterthought in large projects such as this.

    Until next time...Rich
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