“Garbage in-garbage out” is a phrase you’ve heard many times. It’s usually said as if it’s obviously and always true. “If you guys upstream can’t produce clean data, how do you expect my process, my system, to give usable outputs.”
But does it have to be true? I don’t think so. GIGO shouldn’t be the lame excuse that let’s your system continue to fail. You should expect more. Software that’s so dumb that it gives up at the first hurdle is just not trying hard enough. I see no reason why systems shouldn’t try to do a bit of “garbage recycling” and aim to make something good out of imperfect inputs.
That’s the promise of the Text Search match in Isolist, and now also in ReconSilo.
A Text Search match is a type of sub-string match, where the text in field A is required to match part of the text in field B. However, rather than requiring precise alignment of the substring in field B, a Text Search match allows for defects and inconsistencies. It accepts that the data presented for reconciliation might not be consistently arranged, and tries to find field A’s text anywhere within the text of B.
Text Search match type matches a code at any position in the opposite field.
This is often valuable when some of the data you must reconcile has been hand-typed, for example in a descriptive field. ReconSilo can now use that data to identify matching records automatically, which otherwise would have to be identified by you.
There are quite a number of data reconciliation products on the market. Some aim to be major components of global businesses and have very high
price tags prices that can’t even be mentioned. Others are more modest, focusing on the ubiquitous “bank reconciliation” process carried out by most organisations. I believe there’s room for another, so today I’m announcing … (drum roll) … ReconSilo.
ReconSilo will join Isolist as my second reconciliation application. It’s an entirely new and substantially bigger tool, providing many of the full reconciliation process features that just don’t fit inside of Isolist. Features such as carrying forward unmatched records, manual editing of matches, capacity to handle hundreds of thousands of records and full activity logging are all new and put ReconSilo into a different class.
Creating a new application from scratch meant I could build something that I’m passionate about: software that’s a joy to use. Too many applications, especially in the business world, look and feel just as they did way back in the the early 90s. To use them you must scrute the inscrutable icons on the tool-bar, or else wade through endless menus and dialog boxes to accomplish every single task. And they force users to convert their mental understanding of the task they need to perform into the different representation of that task as implemented by the software. Working this way is just not pleasant.
Software that works well, with a high quality, easy-to-use interface, is inevitably more costly to create but will pay off with much stronger user acceptance. Not only do I want to create software that I want to use, but I want lots of you to want to use it too.
Of course, regardless of how it looks and feels, an application must be capable of doing the job required. So the guiding principles in ReconSilo’s development are:
- Be flexible and powerful enough to complete all of your reconciliations
- Be as simple and engaging to use as possible with a rich, visual display
The pre-release version of ReconSilo 1.0 is now available and the final release is only weeks away. You can try it out for free. If you do, I’d love to hear your thoughts.
That’s what Michael O’Shea asked when cards were being swapped at a recent Open Coffee meetup.
Turn your card over. What do you see; useful content or a missed opportunity?
There are several things you could do with the back of your business card. If you’re like me, you’ve got cards in your collection from people you don’t remember, working for businesses you don’t understand. So why not use the space available to spell out what you offer or the benefits your business can provide. Give me some context to help me remember you and I’ll be more likely to call you in the future.
Here’s another idea. Chuck Green suggests including some useful information on the back of your card. Why? Because you want people to hold on to your card ’til they need it. If you’ve given them something useful along with your contact details then the lifetime of your card in other people’s hands should go up.
The reverse of my new card lists my favourite Excel keyboard shortcuts. These are the best ones, the ones that save me from having to reach for the mouse every few seconds. I think they’re great so, if you get one of my cards, try them out the next time you’re in Excel.
Do you like my new video, showing off Isolist version 2.0?
Come to think of it, do you like my cool new software, Isolist version 2.0?
Isolist adds powerful reconciliation capabilities to Excel. It’s been around for about 18 months and has been popular with a small number of users. The intent with version 2.0 is for Isolist to be popular with a rather larger number of users. To that end, the reconciliation logic is significantly more flexible and at the same time it’s faster and more fun to use.
So, if you reconcile two sets of data, give Isolist a try. It can be downloaded, installed and tested literally within minutes. The video is there so that you can see even more quickly whether Isolist is what you need – take a look!
By the way, I’m well aware that this post is pretty much entirely self-serving on my account. I’ll be posting more for you, the reader, in future, I promise.
What is your organisation missing? Let’s see:
- Have a hot IT team, capable of establishing reliable, secure, performing systems within budget? Check.
- Have a keen finance team, dedicated, involved, trusted? Check.
So where’s the gap?
It’s certainly there. I know it is because I often can’t deliver the information that managers want; I can’t answer the root cause questions to the numbers that I present. This gap is a cause of systems falling short of expectation, of organisations not being able to get out of their systems what they are looking for.
The bases are not covered
I believe the gap arises where
- accountants take responsibility for the content and meaning of data but not how to store and retrieve it, and
- IT people take responsibility for storage and retrieval of data but no accountability for what the numbers mean or how they are presented*, but
- nobody understands both.
* – I’m grateful to Stephan-Robert Langer for giving me this characterisation of how accountants and IT people relate to data.
The same gap is identified by David Carter in his call to accountants to break up the BI party.
Filling the Gap
I think I’ve long recognised this gap, because I invariably took on the role of filling it in all of the companies I worked for. So who is in the best place to fill it, an IT person willing to learn financial concepts and take on responsibility for the meaning of data, or an accountant not afraid to grapple with SQL, data normalisation and storage technologies?
It sounds a tough call on both counts, doesn’t it? However, the pragmatic answer is clear. At the end of the day, the accountant is accountable for the numbers, and if that means straddling the gap into IT skills to ensure they can be delivered and explained then that needs to be done. No one else is going to do it.