Accurate data is at the core of every successful business decision. Data analysis exists on many levels in all types of businesses, and if the data isn’t accurate, then neither are the conclusions. So how can you ensure that the reports you receive are based on accurate data?
Accurate data starts from the beginning!
Years ago we used to say, “Garbage in, garbage out!” This still holds true, but there’s so much more effort that needs to be done to assure your data is accurate. Yes, if data entry is full of errors then you are in trouble from the beginning. However, since database systems, such as accounting, CRM, marketing automation, etc., are not new, most people have accepted their existence and do their best to enter data correctly. Although some level of human error is inevitable, there are ways to double check the data and find mistakes before they get too far downstream.
It’s better to have incomplete information than inaccurate data.
Make sure there aren’t too many required fields that would force people to either enter “something” or abandon the record.
Data entry is far from a “brainless” task.
Attention is required! Train the people doing the data entry well, and ensure that they understand that their focus is important. These are your trusted gatekeepers and should be treated as such. They are building the foundation of many of your future business decisions.
Create processes that have a built-in double-check system where possible.
For example, when creating a file naming structure make sure that it coincides with something else, like the folder it’s saved in or the project it’s related to. The result is an erroneous name or a file in the wrong folder will easily stand out.
Run reports at least weekly.
For many reports, this should be standard practice in order to stay on top of business trends. It will also allow you to spot things that “aren’t quite right” so you can make corrections, either to the data or your decisions. For example, if you track opportunities in your CRM system and the value of your “open” report typically has the same ballpark bottom line, you’ll quickly identify when that number is too high or too low. Then the research begins. Is it a missing zero, a missing opportunity, or a dip in business?
Share the knowledge!
Have more than one person looking at the data as they may find things that you are blind to. When you are doing the data entry or just looking at the reports frequently, you may see things that you anticipate being there, but they’re not there. Not only can someone else help see things you miss, they may also bring a different point of view regarding how to leverage the data or other pieces of data that could paint a different picture.
The Data Chick
Originally published on LinkedIn