BI Ethics

The ethics of business intelligence is a touchy subject that many people don’t want to talk about. However, more attention in the past several years has been given to this subject mostly due to ethics scandals at huge companies such as Enron, Tyco, and WorldCom. The Sarbanes-Oxley Act came about because of such scandals and the billions of dollars they cost investors as well as the decrease in investor confidence in the stock markets, but it only applies to publicly held companies.

This is all well documented, and related information can be found all over the web. Recently a Code of Conduct for DBAs was proposed by SQL DBA, Brad McGehee. This is an excellent, albeit broad set of guidelines for DBA behavior.

My last article discusses a relatively benign situation where a decision was made how to calculate and provide statistics. In this article, I’d like to focus on business intelligence. What do you as a Business Intelligence Expert do when asked to provide questionable information? I’ll give the following example to facilitate discussion.

The Accounting Manager of your organization requests a report which details Accounts Receivable Aging. You code the SQL for the report creating groups of invoices that are 30 days, 60 days, 90 days, and more past due. You include an attractive chart and send the report to the Manager for approval. He reviews it and confides in you that his new bonus structure (or perhaps even his job) is dependent upon these numbers. He requests that since ACME Rockets is always late, Wile E. Coyote is always out in the desert chasing the Road Runner instead of paying bills, that they should be removed from the report. His reasoning is that no matter how well the manager performs his job, ACME will never pay in less than 90 days and this drastically lowers his rating.

Think about that for a second…. I’ll wait.

Now let’s suggest that the Accounting Manager is your direct supervisor. You may actually lose your job if you refuse. Look deep within yourself, did the answer change?

Anyway, the following poll is anonymous. What would you do? Feel free to explain why you answered the way you did in the comments.

What would you do?

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5 comments to BI Ethics

  • Hmm, do I like my direct supervisor in this situation? 😉

  • […] This post was Twitted by SQLChicken […]

  • rk

    I’m curious what justification that either iteration of “Go along…” has behind it. Ask anyone who got porked by Delphi, they’ll tell you that notorious slow-pays should be on the radar at all times. If the number for ACME is significant enough to affect the reporting officer’s bonus/job, it’s something that should be highlighted – not buried – and the absence of their numbers should immediately be noticed by the executive committee, anyway. When that’s discovered, whose backside is in the crosshairs… the person who asked for the special filter, or the person who was trusted enough to NOT do such things?

    And say you go along with it, and everyone is fat & happy for a few weeks… next thing you know, you’re getting asked to bury two more slow pays. Then the number balloons to five… to eight… where does it stop? Are you really doing your company a favor by covering up for a lazy salesperson or a squishy A/R person?

  • scott

    I think I would make the report leaving out the data. However I would make a note on the report clearly stating what I left out and why. If there is truely nothing wrong with leaving out the data then the report requester should not have a problem with his boss knowing it was left out.

  • Alan Vogan

    I answered with ‘go to the CFO’ but it would actually be a lot easier for me. We actually have an internal auditor responsible for the SOX audit. He’s been the controller, the CFO. He knows what kind of shananigans go down and know how to stop it.

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