Don't Overlook Data—It's A Valuable Resource

These days, data is the foundation of most organizations. It's perhaps one of a company's most valuable assets.

With the right data, organizations can understand their customers/constituents, make proactive decisions, and understand trends that impact the business. These insights help companies navigate their path forward, like high beams lights on a dark and winding road.

But what happens when the data isn't accurate?

What happens if the customer data is out of sync, out of date, or missing all together?

Ever try driving on a winding road in the dark with no lights? It's slow, stressful, and accidents are far more lightly to occur.

The same can be said about business. 

In 2016, IBM's estimated annual cost of poor data quality in the U.S. equated to $3.1 trillion. I can't fully picture that number, but I do know it's a lot of money for any company to lose. The cost of bad data adds up fast. You may think it's not a big deal today, but over time, bad data will create a mess, and ultimately a loss for your organization.

Let's review how to go from bad data to better data by upholding corporate data integrity.

How to Foster Corporate Data Integrity

The integrity of the data in company systems needs to be taken care of ASAP. It needs attention on an on-going basis to ensure it's accurate, up to date, and providing the right information to the right people.

It's critical that organizations understand the effort data integrity requires from those who enter it, manage it, and depend on it. Here are some tips on ways to help with this.

1. Nominate a Data Steward

Whether it's an individual or a committee, there needs to be accountability. The data steward is responsible for the on-going review of organizational data, and identifies issues. Some examples of what this role might entail are:

  • Periodic review of key data sets, looking for gaps or inconsistencies in the data.
  • Identifying the root cause of misaligned data and suggesting ways to correct course.
  • Producing informational or training content on the importance of data, ensuring all stakeholders understand where the data comes from and how it's used.
  • Identifying other data that could be feeding business operations / decision making.
  • Ensuring data summaries (reports, charts, graphs, dashboards) are relevant and provide actionable information.

2. Coordinate Data Maintenance Days

Scheduling regular data cleansing data for relevant stakeholders is a great idea. An example would be a company that takes the last Friday morning of every month to focus on their data. Practically, this would look something like validating phone numbers and addresses and running reports designed specifically around finding data issues.

For those in the Dynamics 365 space, perhaps this is accomplished by building views or dashboards that surface data gaps—think "Accounts with no mailing address" or "Contacts with no email address."

At C5 Insight, we call bad data: ROTII (Redundant, Obsolete, Trivial, Inaccurate, Incomplete). You wouldn't want rotten food sitting in your fridge, so don't keep ROTII data in your digital workplace (CRM, SharePoint, etc.).

rotten data acronym ROTII

Of course, these holes can be plugged during the normal course of business as well. However, devoting specific time to focus on data issues will mean less frustration for those that depend on the data when they need it.

3. Examine Your System Design

You've rolled out that new CRM system and it's working well overall, but the work doesn't stop when you flip the 'on' switch. There should be regular dialogue between system owners and users regarding the 'flow' of the system.

Ask questions like these to drive discussions:

  • Are the fields in the logical order for business operations?
  • Are business process flows collecting the right information at the right stage?
  • Are there automations that could expedite processes and ensure the right information is moving to the right person/people?
  • Are views, charts, dashboards and reports showing the right information in the right format?

Asking these questions will help system owners have the right data in the right place for the right people.

4. Form Data Definitions

Have you ever been entering data in a system and come across a field that you don't understand?

Perhaps it's a text field that has a label such as "Interests." What does this mean? What kind of interests? Personal interests like what sports or food they like (to help build rapport)? Or does this refer to interests specific to lines of business the company offers?

Lack of clarity leaves users to their own devices.

Those own devices include assumptions, and assumptions are an enemy of data integrity. Clarity rules. Here are some things an organization could consider:

  • Add "ToolTips." Add a "hint" that appears when you hover over a field via ToolTips.
  • Insert form prompts or explanations that can be toggled on and off. When turned on, text appears to guide users through the form and the fields upon it.
  • Create a data dictionary. A cheat sheet for each form that outlines each field on a form, what the data is for, what choices are available, and any dependencies it might have. (Example: only appears when the X field contains data).
  • Use a third party training system. There are several exceptional tools that can walk users through a training exercise or provide dynamic tips as they work through the record/page.

5. Simplify Your Data

Simplicity is underrated.

So often, we see organizations create countless data points with aspirations of collecting all of the information they possibly can. These organizations then become frustrated about data gaps, wondering why their team isn't inputting all of the right information.

A company should ask itself: what are the key pieces of information we need to make decisions about our business? Whether you are just starting out with your business or you are trying to regain control of erroneous data, dial it back to the basics by asking these questions:

  • What are we trying to accomplish?
  • What data do we need to be able to do this?

Start small. For example, what five pieces of customer data are absolutely critical to our ability to serve them? What three reports give us the information we need to operate effectively?

Then, build on it with intentionality by always asking "but how are we using this data?" If you can't answer that question, then is that data realistically important to collect?

Governing Your Data Today Benefits Tomorrow

Data has the power to illuminate the road ahead by giving you insight into what has happened in the past. Think about that point for a moment. It's the foundation of forecasting, which helps you plan where you are going and how to get there.

Being intentional about your data is a critical aspect of success, and one you should keep on your radar at all times.

Is data out of control in your organization? Need help formulating a plan on how to get your finger on the data pulse? Contact C5 Insight—we're here to help you govern your data better, so you can get back to work.