Given some of the problems identified within the embedding BCE project and highlighted in ‘development and support of information systems’, it makes sense for any review project to identify the extent of access to mainstream corporate database systems such as student records, HR and financial systems, customer relationship management, libraries and VLEs etc. Secondly the review should seek to identify any local systems in existence.
Identifying not only who has access but the nature of that access – ie is it read only/read and edit/read, create and edit; is it access to the main software or report output only – and seeking perceptions on who requires access and for what purposes would gather much of the data necessary to gain a picture of:
- Official users of corporate systems
- The nature of access
- Requirements not currently catered for
- Current levels of interoperability between systems
- Potential risks where duplicate systems have sprung up
Where the support team for corporate data systems sanction local developments, they can ensure that any duplication of data is minimised, that existing official coding systems can be used consistently to aid any future links or conversion, that data structures are consistent (e.g. that there is a first name field of x characters length, a second name field of x characters and a last name field of y characters) and that data owners and developers of local systems understand that any data changes made to local systems are not necessarily going to be reflected in corporate data unless notified to the correct data entry team.
One of the big risks introduced by local systems is that of the ‘my data’ syndrome, whereby any updates given by students or other data subjects – change of address, a change of name etc. – is made only in the local database. The syndrome in full is ‘my data is correct – corporate data is not my responsibility’.
Also the review should check for any written policies covering data access and interoperability links and where such policies exist, the general awareness of and ease of access to them by users and potential users.