Its always satisfying when you are able to conceptualise a problem that then seems to be appear widely. Invariably when I do this it is something that others reasoned on long before nonetheless it is still satisfying to arrive at the table albeit late.
I have done a lot of work in the public sector and many of the legal requirements constantly change and are not always logical. This can lead to contradictory requirements which software designers and particularly vendors can’t or won’t keep up with. Inevitably we end up with satellite procedures to catch edge cases. This is causing quite a lot of friction because of something I have started thinking about as Proof of Negative.
To prove a negative you have to access all information that has ever been – often to prove a positive you just need to find the one instance and then you can stop looking. Therefore it is on average harder to prove a negative than it is to prove a positive.
It was highlighted to me the other day when looking at a map. We were looking for a planning application and we were certain it existed. We had no reason to presume it didn’t exist however we were unable to find it. I eventually went to the map and looked at every planning application in an area none existed and so the conclusion was that it had never existed – time consuming but highlighted to me the importance of having all the information in one format that was easily comparable. Quite often switching between systems there are reconciliation issues either gaps or overlaps or the search options are wildly different which leaves you needing then to reconcile between searches additional difficulty and additional time.
So something to keep in mind when moving data about (Try and keep it in one easily searchable place ) Still nice to discover or should I say re-discover a fundamental truth .. It is sometimes referred to as the philosophic burden of proof and has been debated and thought about extensively.
Wikipedia Proof of Negative
Here’s a short guide I put together for myself to help me assess the value of enterprise systems that I may be looking for or designing myself. Not hard and fast and some points may not be relevant to every application but this should form a good basis from which to start. Generally a higher number is better than a lower number but within numbers items are more cumulative and of equal value.
1)Paper based = Everything from single sheets to formal Books of Accounts
2)Simple Digital = spreadsheet and other file based storage
3)Cloud based Simple Digital = spreadsheet and other file based storage – this can include file based blob storage
4.1)LAN relational database – normalised but otherwise fairly locked down
4.2)LAN relational database + easy import and export of data other than spatial
4.3)LAN relational database + report writer definable by users
4.4)LAN relational database + spatially enabled
5.1)Internet available relational database – normalised but otherwise fairly locked down
5.2)Internet available relational database + easy import and export of data other than spatial
5.3)Internet available relational database + report writer definable by users
5.4)Internet available relational database + spatially enabled (noted not all applications require a spatial aspect)
5.5)Internet available relational database + separate site available for public access view only
5.6)Internet available relations database + separate access to public access to edit and add information
+ UPtime / reliability
+ SPEED – after reliability very important
+ Good master details forms (sounds easy but bootstrap is not great for this)
+ GOOD Search – the larger the system the more important the search options are in it. Look out for things like Automated Objective Index creation (case sensitive search is more of a hassle than a benefit a lot of the time – odd wild cards – or not being wild by default are problem areas)
+ Portability can you up sticks and move it to a different cloud provider
+ Non – Proprietary (Can be a gotcha if its really obscure or has weird security, often linked to portability)
+ two factor authentication
+ Responsive Design (Not necessarily as important as you think in some applications see Github / Open Layers arguably don’t need it)
+ Dynamic saving – I really miss the fast dynamic saving environment of MS Access the save button isn’t quite the same
+ Built in CRM – I generally like them especially if data can go straight into correct files.. Increasingly I am designing systems with inbuilt CRM – I know this might not be to every organisations taste but it is jarring to go between systems and normalisation between systems is usually very sub optimal – plus you frequently come across proof of negative problems when data required for a specific task is not held appropriately.
+ Satellite application for customers to enter information (why not let your customers maintain their information can be great and can empower customers Fintech anyone?)
= All the bells and whistles
Spatially enabled internet available database with two factor authentication – report writer and easy import and export of spatial and attribute information with public access to edit and add information by customers (Possibly via satellite application).