Rogue databases.

We’ve all seen them: the spreadsheets and contact files that persist in foiling our plans for Ultimate Integration. The problem is complex, so I’ll try to break it in to bite sized pieces for you. In this first post of the series, let’s talk about some of the reasons why rogue databases exist.

I did an informal survey of colleagues, who have extensive experience uncovering and consolidating rogue databases for nonprofit organizations, to find out why rogue databases happen.

Six reasons rogue databases happen:

  1. You don’t have the right technical tools. There’s no place in the database to store the information you want, or you can’t get it out – at least not in the format you want.
  2. You don’t know how to use the technical tools you have. You haven’t taken training or read the manual. There’s no time for that! And, as a nonprofit employee, you’re used to working with limited resources and DIY projects.
  3. It’s easier, at least in the short term, not to enter things in the database. You are busy. You use sticky notes, email (flags, stars), documents stored on your local computer, or paper files. You rely on your memory.
  4. You don’t trust the database, because you’ve been burned before, or you have a bad case of technophobia.
  5. You are reluctant to put your list into a shared database because of territory, trust, or control issues. (What if so-and-so deletes something or messes up my categories?!)
  6. You’ve never really thought about data management. How could database integration benefit you and your organization? What’s the downside of sloppy data? When are separate databases a good choice?

We’ll explore these questions, along with some practical strategies and tips, in the remainder of this blog series.

What’s your experience with rogue databases? Do you have a 7th reason to add to this list?

Chime in with your comments, and stay tuned for the next post in this series: Is Integration Worth the Effort?

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