icm2re logo. icm2:re (I Changed My Mind Reviewing Everything) is an 

ongoing web column edited and published by Brunella Longo

This column deals with some aspects of change management processes experienced almost in any industry impacted by the digital revolution: how to select, create, gather, manage, interpret, share data and information either because of internal and usually incremental scope - such learning, educational and re-engineering processes - or because of external forces, like mergers and acquisitions, restructuring goals, new regulations or disruptive technologies.

The title - I Changed My Mind Reviewing Everything - is a tribute to authors and scientists from different disciplinary fields that have illuminated my understanding of intentional change and decision making processes during the last thirty years, explaining how we think - or how we think about the way we think. The logo is a bit of a divertissement, from the latin divertere that means turn in separate ways.

Chronological Index | Subject Index

Let's talk about the money

About me, my banks and the insane fathers

How to cite this article?
Longo, Brunella (2015). Let's talk about the money. About me, my banks and the insane fathers. icm2re [I Changed my Mind Reviewing Everything ISSN 2059-688X (Print)], 4.1 (January).

How to cite this article?
Longo, Brunella (2015). Let's talk about the money. About me, my banks and the insane fathers. icm2re [I Changed my Mind Reviewing Everything ISSN 2059-688X (Online)], 4.1 (January).

London, January 2015 - Like sex, straight talks about money may be embarrassing. Accumulation of experiences (transactions) and perversion in the use of money (from tax evasion to bribery and beyond) usually profit from a distorted use of privacy laws, exactly as it happens with the exchange of information within sophisticated pedophiles rings, kept in secrecy thanks to debt, family and political bondages and bottlenecks in information security. In other terms, it is the thread and the granularity of the process, and not its substance or outcome, that ensures its inertia and continuity.

In a passionate internet debate about data retention schedules, some time ago I wrote that the best policy in medical and financial records is often counterintuitive.

In medical records, a misleading representation can be obtained cumulating mistakes with cross references: Doctor Smith, for examples, makes a wrong note that Doctor White quotes as justification for another wrong note and so on and so forth, in a 'cumulative mess trajectory' that has no solution other than the deletion of the data and the re-creation from scratch of the record, exactly what people DO NOT tend to consider appropriate as far as health and medical matters are concerned. Why? Because we all value the cumulative memory that health information represents for us as individuals, families, for the whole society, and in doing so we implicitly consider the experience of centuries of traditions in paper based records. Medical personnel make no exception as they are not trained and they are not even experts in information management.

I have seen, for instance, how easily can be manipulated the attention of doctors not to care about very relevant information for the prevention of a number of chronic illnesses from blood test results because, even if they want updated information and fresh data to make a diagnosis, they tend spontaneously to find an interpretative pattern and then trust the summary overview of the patient’s history and family. They can end underestimating the significance of a drop or raise in certain values, hic and nunc. And yet, a patient health is in the "here and now" moment, more than in the history of his or her medical records.

In financial records the distortion and potentially perversion of the assessment of an individual or business situation can be obtained through the repetition of the same mistakes by different actors that victimise the same target with identical or similar errors. Various names have been given to such techniques, the patterns of which include fraudsters trees, the creation of fictitious 'bad debt' by multiple subjects and other expedients. In this context, the only realistic and effective way to improve the utility of the datasets consists in keeping all the records live and assure they can be checked and shared with the maximum level of transparency, integrity, accountability and findability among different operators. Showing all the errors, the missing data and the different patterns requires the implementation of data mining technologies and the preservation of a high level of accurate data - that is exactly what people tend not to care about in an emergency.

Many weak voices and false evidences can fabricate strong quasi-truths managed by credit ratings agencies, the most powerful defamation machine existing in today’s business world.

Camorra, mafia and other serious organised criminals know very well that the best way to compromise their victims and enemies prospects of success is to attack their financial reputation, even before attacking their assets.

Although it may be very hard to find and to expose the abuses, we should recognise that socially engineered scams and hate discourses involving medical and financial records rely on a dull but effective strategy to perpetrate an attack: first, the virtual representations of a target and its social relationships, reputation and credibility are attacked through a 'storm' of data pitfalls and inconsistent associations. Secondly, the volume and variety of such messy and inconsistent records will threaten the victims’ reputation, health, work and so on and so forth.

Change in retention schedule policies

Change in retention schedule policies does not come easy until and unless people makes sense of it and endorse the principles underneath the procedures.

People information behaviours tend to inertia at all times.

It is when people look at the matter behind the data, from the point of view of the victims and their contexts, that the consequences of abuses and errors in data management can be seen and the proposed procedural changes can be evaluated and appreciated in full.

Transparent and conscious use of information is what actually makes information valuable and its management worthwhile. Without use, data are just "stuff" exposed to dust and potential abuses. That is why we should regulate usages of the data, and not the mere treatment, as I wrote in another article about privacy law.

GPs, paramedicals, administrative personnel and end users in the health sector have not generally reached yet that turning point in of expertise required to evaluate real time and diagnosis technologies at the point of care more than their (very trusted, in spite of some dismay) paper archives (that have become, in turn, expensive and not really manageable any further without technologies of information and communications). In this sector, people tend to translate from the paper world to the electronic world the same retention schedule policies without seeing how different the two data environments are.

The key point for change in both the medical and the financial sector is to identify patterns, significant data and errors promptly and to prevent as much as possible misuses and falsehood, both in real time or current records and in historical records.

Financial people do often the opposite: they overestimate the benefits of technologies and tend to see positively any achievement in terms of speed or big data associations or knowledge discovery, rushing into conclusions that may lead to crashes and disasters simply because they do not check the provenience and cross examine the integrity of the data. They tend to assume that banking and financial records have a superior integrity and reliability and must be, of course, trusted even in the most improbable places and when it is not known how they have been made, such as mobile computing transactions or offshore data centres.

The legacy bias in medical records - if we can put it in this way - is that history is paramount and gives credibility to the assessment and strength of the diagnosis. The legacy bias in financial records is that velocity is paramount and the latest insight and links about clients or competitors and their transactions gives an advantage.

I guess you have already reached the conclusion. It is a simple idea that should deserve a test particularly where, as in the civil service, there is no fat for cats: putting HMRC people in charge of NHS record management and nurses and paramedicals at the Treasury sounds to me as a very clever way to speed up at least the fight against frauds and errors. It could also produce more sanity in some departments that deal with innovation and behavioural economics.