Monday, December 27, 2010


The names of persons is a subject that will impact a provisioning roll out in many ways. Some very upfront and other more convoluted. If you ignore the subject you may regret this once your system is live and the problems starts showing up. Names are not only used to populate the basic name fields but also as generators for things like logins and email addresses so by solving some of the problems up front in the feeds you can avoid a lot of issues in the target systems.

In this posting I will talk about static names while a later posting will discuss name changes.

If you are US based and you are rolling out an employee only system the name seeding is quite straightforward. The HR system usually uses the name that is featured on the social security card so that is the name that gets feed to you. For the last name this is usually straightforward but many people go by a different first name. Their real first name may be "Joseph" but everyone calls them Joe so they want their email to be joe.smith instead of joseph.smith. The solution to this problem is to have a preferred first name field and use that in case it exists.

Next problem comes in form of names that contains weird characters such as O'Malley. Normal solution is to just filter out any non a-z and A-Z characters from the feed. Hyphens are also usually allowed.

Outside of the US problems get worse. You have all kinds of strange characters in names and just filtering away all "strange" characters may not work very well. The happy Swede "Åke Öhlund" would not be so happy with the email "ke.hlund". What I have found is that you can actually support most languages by a simple translation table with about thirty entries that simply drops the umlauts and accent characters and turn them into the corresponding ASCII character. Our friend "Åke Öhlund" would usually like to get the email "ake.ohlund". Or at least he won't complain too loudly.

There a number of national or regional issues that I have run into over the years. If your system will cover these regions it is worth investigating if you will run into this specific issue or not.

In some parts of the world people have more than one last as well as first name. For example among expat Chinese in Singpore it is common that you have an official Chinese name and in addition a western name. A preferred last name as well as preferred first name solves this problem.

In Holland a lot of people tend to start their last name with van as in "van Fleet". There may be a request to generate email addresses with the van removed.

Germans like their formal titles and sometimes the Herr Doctors wants their Doctor degrees to be an integral part of their last name. Don't be surprised if you find "Schmitt, Dr" in the last name field in the HR feed. In severe cases you may even find "Schmitt, Dr, Dr" or "Schmitt. Professor Dr".

In Latin America people usually have two last names as your inherit one last name from your mother and one from your father.

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