Good Data Starts with Good Data Processes
Modern technology allows enterprises to accumulate immense quantities of data with ease. We can collect useful data from website visitor logs, search queries, social media posts, customer credit data, and more. Numerous data sources can provide information about your markets and your competitors. And that‘s to say nothing of the data available from your customers’ orders, returns, and payment history.
These oceans of data, however, provide value only if they are managed well. Businesses of all sizes and types degrade the value of their data without even knowing it. They allow their records to become outdated and irrelevant. Their data often includes duplicate and incomplete records. In worst cases, they fail to protect sensitive information, which can result in fines and lawsuits when the data is hacked.
To keep your data valuable, enforce clear, robust policies and procedures that govern the data lifecycle.
Does Your Data Lifecycle Process Need a Tune-up?
If your company doesn’t have written policies and procedures around the data lifecycle, you need to develop some and soon. Many free or low-cost sample documents are available online and can be customized for your situation.
If you do have these documents, make sure they’ve been updated recently. Here are some ways to tell if your data lifecycle process needs a tune-up:
- Users complain about duplicate, incomplete, or contradictory records
- A large amount of your data is “dirty”—postal codes in phone number fields, misspelled names, incorrect date formats, wrong addresses, and so on
- Many records have not been updated in a long time, which reduces their reliability
- Old data records are still in the system after they were supposed to be purged
- Auditors have identified regulatory compliance issues with your data
In most cases, the main cause of all these issues can be traced to a lack of ownership. Every piece of data in your business systems must have a named human owner (and a backup)—someone who obtains the data from reliable sources, keeps the data clean and up to date, protects sensitive data, and meets regulatory requirements.
And let it be said: Although IT has a role in data governance, it’s incorrect to think of data governance as the IT team’s problem. It’s a business problem.
Data Lifecycle Process Tips
Your data lifecycle process is not a set-it-and-forget-it proposition. It should evolve as the company’s needs, strategies, and priorities change and as new regulatory compliance rules come into effect. Your data lifecycle policy and procedure documents should be reviewed at least once per year and updated as needed.
And, of course, all stakeholders should be trained on these documents when they are first published and any time they are updated. Even if an annual review finds that no changes are needed, personnel should be provided with refresher training.
Additional important aspects of your data lifecycle process include:
- Data has a lifecycle that includes acquisition, processing, storage, and archiving or purging (as appropriate) when it is no longer useful. This lifecycle should be represented in your data governance documents.
- Data must be clean at the source. If it is not (or you can’t confirm that it is), then look for other sources to provide data that is clean and useful to your organization.
- Develop a data stewardship program for which the owners of records ensure the quality of their data. Support them with reports and other tools that identify data quality issues so they can be addressed quickly and on a recurring basis.
- The procedure should include processes to assign data ownership and reassign it when there are personnel or organizational changes. One of the most unwelcome consequences of a missing or unenforced ownership process is to discover that the “owner” of your data retired five years ago.
It can be daunting to establish or modernize a data lifecycle process. Empellor CRM can evaluate your current process and recommend appropriate changes. Contact Empellor CRM today to learn more.