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Changing the Past

By Steve Jones,

A few years ago my accountant caught a mistake in one of our tax returns. This was during the next year's filing and so we had to amend to previous return, filing against almost two years later to correct an issue. Fortunately the error was in our favor and we ended up receiving a refund.

In most businesses you typically do not change data that was completed in the past unless there is a severe error. For some types of data, such as audit data, you never want to change it. And in many cases, even if there were some change, because of the way that you have operated the business based on those past values, you might decide not to change things.

However as more and more data is accumulated, and used in business decisions, legal proceedings, etc, it is likely that more data professionals will be faced with the questions about when it is appropriate to alter something. With that in mind, this Friday's poll is:

When would you change archived data?

Are there circumstances that you are aware of where it is valid to change data that might be archived? Is it only to make corrections that were recorded incorrectly in the past? Is it to normalize data, so events like companies merging are able to run reports with pre-merge data?

This is a thorny subject, but it seems like one that we should be thinking about as data professionals, looking to give guidance to our clients.

Steve Jones


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Steve Jones