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Misuse of a Boolean February 25, 2013

Posted by Ivor's Window to the IT and CRM World in Management, Microsoft CRM.
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Misuse of a Boolean

Some years ago when I was dealing with a system that primarily held information about animals in kennels, in this case dogs, I came across what I can only call misuse of a Boolean.

This had to deal with the gender of the animal, it can only be male or female, and the designer of the system had decided to add a field with two the two options. He was however faced with a dilemma what should the default be? So he made it “Male” and displayed this field as radio buttons.

This is wrong on so many levels, but if we just look at the big picture, every record that was created had the gender automatically set to “male”. The operator may have noticed that the dog was female and made a change but often this got missed, and the result was as you can well imagine, data carnage.

We also had the situation where, when progeny was recorded in the records that a male dog could easily have two male parents!

How does one get into such a mess? The analysis would show that the system should cater for two genders, so that is correct, it is the person who made the decision to create this field as a Boolean with two values who is the real culprit here. This field also made it through developer testing, customer UAT and into a production system!

The configuration tools available in Microsoft CRM allow users to create a multitude of different field types and care should be taken during the technical design to prevent this sort of abuse. Typically you would use a Pick List (Option Set) with the two values and set the default value to “Unassigned” and then make the field mandatory so that the user will be forced to update the record on creation.

This is blog number 6 in the series “The more things change the more they stay the same”.



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