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Simon Washbrook

How To Make Your Database Less Confusing?

Duplicates in a confusing database

I’ve just received a letter reminding me about an exhibition I went to last year and no doubt plan on attending this time too. But I received 2 letters with near identical information. I don’t mind, it gives me blog content to talk about. If you send letters out, you’ll know they cost about £1 each to send when everything is added up. But that’s without staff costs to sit and stuff the envelopes or lick the stamps. You’ll know the wasted costs of sending duplicate letters out – it can be massive if you end up sending to your contacts multiple times per year. Every year.

£1 lost down the back of the sofa is an annoyance. It isn’t much on its own. But if you lost 1,000 £1 coins, would that annoy you enough to seal up the hole in your sofa? Or, if you don’t do ‘snail mail’ anymore, I’ll bet you make business decisions based on the data in your database. That, or users will want to look up contact details – and seeing duplicate records is a real pain. Users won’t fix it either, but they’ll remember the rotten state of the confusing database.

computer hard disc drive being washed representing making database less confusing

Fuzzy matching in a confusing database

Most database have ‘exact match’ reports. This allows you to simply delete/combine the contacts who match exactly the same records as another with the same name. But what if you have a Mr J Smith, John Smith, and a Jonathan Smith? A simple example, I’ll grant you.

But there aren’t many programmes that actually spot these as duplicate contacts (let’s presume they are at the similar named company/similar address. But not exact matches for every letter). Fuzzy matching can find them. And your users will love you for it.

What fuzzy matching does is a bit like when you see a fuzzy mugshot on the TV of a man looking like he’s in the SAS. Squint your eyes and you get a better idea of who you can actually on the TV.

Fuzzy matching on your database is very similar. It finds and combines near misses/near matches.

However, it is expensive, and it’s not worth getting your own software unless you have a massive budget and constantly have to de-duplicate your database. Think Barclays Bank. Or like Tesco for instance.

Not suitable for your average mid-sized law firm, or manufacturing business. But isn’t that the whole point of getting a consultant in to hit your data with a big lump hammer, for you to then chip away at with chisel going forward?

Article “Limit Confusion when Looking at your Database” Written by Simon McNidder from Database First Aid.

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