The primary output of this service is a high-level assessment report. This service begins with an examination and documentation at the metadata level of all data sources.
This is a core service offered by ICON. Over many years of performing this service for public pension systems, ICON has developed a thorough and comprehensive methodology for analyzing and profiling data. One component of the methodology includes a repository of nearly1000 Data Quality Check Points (DQCP). These DQCPs represent the accumulated experience of identified data quality issues found during prior engagements. By using these DQCPs it is not necessary to "reinvent the wheel" at every new client. However, ICON understands that each client will also have their own unique business rules and data quality issues in addition to those that are common in the industry.
To perform thorough data cleansing it is necessary to first begin with data analysis and profiling. Many public pension systems tackle data cleansing one issue at a time. As they run into a data issue, that issue is addressed. We’ve seen clients’ use this approach for several years, however, until a comprehensive data analysis and profiling has been performed, data quality issues will continue to "crawl out of the woodwork". In addition, due to the complex relationships found in public pension data, sometimes certain data quality issues may not be identified until some data cleansing has occurred. For example, a service credit problem may not be known until wage reporting cleansing has taken place. The reports produced during analysis and profiling become the input into the data cleansing process.
Typically clients have their data spread out over many data sources, but would prefer to have their data integrated. For example, data problems exist when there are multiple addresses stored in multiple locations for members. ICON is very experienced with flat files as well as relational databases and understands the need for data normalization. Another reason to integrate data is to build a database that can be used for reporting and management information. Because pension systems must gather and report certain data elements to their actuaries, it is vitally important to have high quality data.
In an ideal pension administration system replacement project the data project would precede the implementation of the new system by several months. This helps provide time to analyze, profile, cleanse and integrate all of the data. Typically the client subject matter experts that are needed to understand the data are the same staff needed to design the new system. Their time is valuable and project management is more difficult when both activities are occurring at the same time.
This is another core service provided by ICON. The base goal is always to migrate the legacy data into the new PAS. For a variety of reasons it is a good idea to have gone through the data analysis, profiling, and cleansing steps above and then maintain the quality of the data through data stewardship in the TSD until the new system is ready for use.
There are a minimum of three entities – the client, PAS vendor, and ICON – that must each have a role in data project management. In many instances a contracted oversight/project management (OPM) firm is also involved, with the client or OPM firm providing overall leadership for the PAS project and the data project. This is important to ensure effective integration of the data project within the PAS project and to ensure effective coordination of all contracted resources.
Data governance consulting is an additional service offered by ICON involving the development of a professional architecture and framework around all data governance issues. Once a client has gone through the cost and time to build a new PAS, cleanse their legacy data, and then migrate that data into the new system they will want to retain the value of that investment.
The construction of a good data governance model is the first step in maintaining data quality. However, the model must be put into practice. It is not sufficient to have the rules and processes documented but they must be implemented. ICON can assist clients by building routines and programs that can be run to implement the data governance rules. Our knowledge of their data as well as experience gained at other systems allows us to quickly build these routines and programs.
Since ICON is the public pension industry leader with more experience than any other firm in the field, we have been asked to do many things. For example, we have built a data warehouse for a client to allow them access to quick and reliable management information. We have been asked to do data mining. Our experienced staff has existing routines that allow them to very quickly pull desired information out of a database. We have deep experience in using a wide variety of software tools and have been asked to mentor staff as they learn new tools and systems. Custom data services are anything that the client may need related to data.