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The Decision Factor offers insightful comments and observations on analytics—from views on new technology approaches and market dynamics to the latest industry trends driving demand for faster, smarter information analysis. This blog contains personal views, thoughts, and opinions from SAP employees, mentors, and friends working in the area of analytics. It’s not endorsed by SAP nor does it constitute an official communication of SAP.

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Can Information Governance Help Me Find My TV?

Can Information Governance Help Me Find My TV?USA reported an interesting story about a musician who ordered a Westinghouse TV from Amazon (purchased from a third party provider). Some of you probably did that yourself over the holidays. He anxiously waited for the big box to arrive. Instead, a much smaller box appeared on his doorstop. Hmmm. Perhaps, he thought, this is a single component for the TV? Cables or a stand? Reasonable guesses.

Nope. Not a TV at all—instead, it was a black, semiautomatic gun. Imagine his surprise! Thankfully, the Washington, D.C. musician did the right thing and called law enforcement.

However, the situation prompts a number of questions:

  • How does a TV get mistaken for a gun? Not only is the item different, but the size is different, the supplier is different, the price is different, the description is different, and the category is different.
  • Was any paperwork checked for the buyer and seller of the gun? State-specific permits? Felonies? Background check? In a multiple-seller case, is everyone aware of who is accountable for each of these requirements?
  • Was the product transported like a TV (just left on the doorstep), or like a gun? Guns can’t even be directly shipped to an individual without a Federal Firearms License.
  • How do you return a gun via mail, when you ordered a TV? According to the article, the gun couldn’t be transported by car in Washington, D.C., so law enforcement had to take possession of the gun.

Avoid Pitfalls with Information Governance

What does any of this have to do with information governance? Obviously, we’ll never totally get rid of human error. But a few best practices may have helped:

  • Monitoring critical information elements: The business process relies on high quality information, which requires you to conduct system checks along the business process for both consistent information values (price, description, supplier, category) and perhaps even information values vs. physical attributes (size and weight). I talked to one customer who, while checking attributes against physical attributes, found that the attributes in the system were for fully assembled items, not the item as it’s packed. Imagine the impact of those different dimensions on your shipping plan!
  • Root cause analysis: Someone is liable for sending the product to the customer’s door. In this case, the product is subject to both federal and local restrictions. Coordination may be required between varying agencies (local and federal), suppliers (manufacturer, distributor, seller), and shipper. These different groups need to share data and business processes to determine why the error occurred. When did this occur? Have like errors happened with any degree of frequency? Tracking down critical business process information is a core competency of an information governance program.
  • Service-level agreement (SLA) compliance: The seller and distributor should be checking how many items have been returned due to the wrong item being picked. Acceptable thresholds should be agreed upon, set, and monitored. Distributors should be penalized when acceptable thresholds aren’t met.

Having a robust business process in place isn’t enough—the process depends on trustworthy information. Make sure you’re discussing how your information process (and your information governance team) supports your business processes. And allow for some human error along the way.

Do you have SLAs in place? Are your policies documented?