Empower Your Team to Deal with Data-Quality Issues

11. When we search for a customer in our CRM system, we find the person two or three times.

12. I spend half my day trying to get the computer systems to do what I need them to do.

13. People think we are spamming them.

14. Some contact records won't save because the entries are invalid, but I can't see anything wrong.

15. I don't know how to type an international telephone number in a field.

16. The CRM system is asking for a state, but our customers are not in the United States.

17. I find it difficult to train new employees because there are so many learned workarounds to facilitate data entry.

18. The company is getting huge amounts of returned mail after each marketing campaign.

19. Sales teams say the CRM system is giving them false leads and wasting their time.

20. We have invalid entries in contact records: dates that aren't dates, genders that aren't genders, and strange characters in fields.

21. There's no point calling anyone because all of our phone numbers are wrong.

22. I use my own spreadsheet to capture data because the system doesn't work.

If you hear your team mention any of these problems, you have a data-quality problem. And, sadly, this is by no means a definitive list.

What About Security?

We think of data quality as being a convenience and cost problem, but it can spark all kinds of unwanted chain reactions.

On the above list, the last point—number 22—is the one that will worry your CIO.

If employees are not using the tools you have provided, you are paying for systems that don't work and paying each person to come up with alternatives. Business data may be saved randomly, with no security, on multiple devices and potentially outside of the business' control.

Your employees might be recording customers' details in draft emails, in a notes application, on an unencrypted mobile device, on a memory stick, in an Excel spreadsheet on their desktop—the possibilities are endless, and the consequences disastrous.

Own the Problem

Any business can have a data-quality problem, and the biggest indicators are employees. They are the ones using the data; they are the ones who stand to gain the most when data quality is maintained. As quality drops, their jobs get harder, and morale crashes.

While maintaining data is a joint effort, the business must take ownership itself. It is the CEO, the managers, and the board who are responsible for owning the data and managing it effectively. These same people must make it fit for purpose.

The first step is to implement a data-quality solution that meshes with existing systems. For example, a tool that integrates with the CRM system will clean data without the need for importing and exporting. Cleansing, deduplicating, and matching and enhancing records will help get the problem under control. Control over data entry—such as checking form values in a field—will help to maintain a better standard of data going forward.

Once the data is clean and nurtured, there is no reason for any employee to take that data into his own hands. Your business benefits from a leaner, more accurate dataset, and improved efficiency that directly benefits its bottom line.

Martin Doyle is the CEO of DQ Global, a provider of data deduplication, address verification, and data cleansing software.

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