Your business data is the lifeblood that runs through your organization. It powers automated workflows, gives customer service reps the full story every time the phone rings, and informs decision-making.
Even small businesses can benefit from the rise of big data by optimizing their organization's data and creating processes to put it to work. According to Experian, eight in ten businesses believe data is one of their most valuable assets.
When your business data is reliable and accurate, it's smooth sailing. But when errors, duplicates, and question marks surface... it's not so pretty. When you can't trust your business data, problems quickly arise and multiply in every area of your organization.
Businesses lose as much as 20% of revenue due to poor data quality, shares Kissmetrics. Back in 2013, HBR also talked about the ripple effect of unreliable data as part of "Data's Credibility Problem":
"When data are unreliable, managers quickly lose faith in them and fall back on their intuition to make decisions, steer their companies and implement strategy. They are, for example, much more apt to reject important, counterintuitive implications that emerge from big data analyses."
To get the best results as a data-driven organization, here are some of the best practices to strengthen the foundations and make your business data the most reliable it can be.
9 Ways to Fix Unreliable Data and Increase Accuracy
1. Improve your data foundations.
Data debt – the cost attached to poor governance of data in a business – is a significant problem for many organizations, and 36% of businesses say data literacy is crucial to future-proof their organization, shares Experian.
Making your business data more reliable doesn't just happen by magic: it requires strong frameworks, processes and a data-literate workplace. As early in your business journey as possible, ensure that you have:
- A strong CRM system to centralize all contact data
- Processes to organize and segment data
- Integrations between apps
- Formal data literacy programs in place to educate your team
- A clear strategy of how you will use and maintain the data you collect
Remember the old proverb: the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, the second-best time is now. The same goes for getting your data in order!
2. Look at where new data is coming from.
Just like reliable data, messy and unreliable data doesn't happen accidentally. There's always a source. To make your business data more reliable, follow the trail back to where data is coming from.
How is data being added to your CRM? Are there forms or manual imports that are causing bad data to clutter your database? Are different team members importing conflicting data in different ways to multiple apps?
3. Optimize forms and data collection channels.
Once you have identified how new data is entering your apps, take some time to optimize these data collection channels.
To collect valid and reliable data, make sure that these factors are true for every piece of data you collect:
- You actually need to collect the data
- You are collecting it in a consistent and standardized format between apps
- You have clear permission to collect it based on data protection regulations
- It will be stored and organized in the right app for the right purpose
4. Break down data silos.
A recipe for unreliable data is having data silos. A data silo is a collection of data that one department has access to but others do not.
The negative effects of data silos are bad news for performance and productivity for any organization: they include a lack of transparency, efficiency, collaboration, and trust.
To remove data silos, use a central CRM between departments, connect data between the apps in your tech stack, and focus on building a culture of collaboration between departments.
5. Segment your data.
Good business data is organized, adds value to your company, and is collected with explicit permission from users. To make your data more organized, segmentation is your friend.
Segmentation can look like labels, tags, list memberships, groups, or other properties that tell you more about each contact and divide your database into clear categories of preferences, demographics, buying history, and more.
When you integrate your data between apps using an iPaaS (Integration Platform as a Service), you can create syncs based on your segments and connect the right data two ways between your apps.
6. Clean up your databases.
To make your business data more reliable, clean up any messy data as soon as possible. This means fixing or removing:
- Incorrect data
- Outdated data
- Duplicate data
According to SiriusDecisions, on average it costs about $1 to prevent a duplicate, $10 to correct a duplicate, and $100 to store a duplicate if left untreated.
To help prevent duplicates and other bad data, create company-wide standards for data entry and maintenance, then sync data from the most accurate source to your other apps and create a holistic view of your database. It's also valuable to set up and document processes to standardize and verify new data.
7. Connect your apps to integrate data.
The most effective data management strategies connect data between apps. This removes data silos, creates an integrated view of all of your data, and syncs up-to-date data to the right places as soon as anything changes.
The easiest way to achieve quality data integration is with a zero-code iPaaS solution that connects the dots between all of your key business apps, from your CRM to your email marketing system and customer support software.
8. Create accessible reporting dashboards.
Instead of hiding your data insights away on private dashboards, make them transparent to the right people in your team. For many KPIs, that means your whole team.
Organizations with the most effective and reliable data typically choose a limited number of impactful KPIs and make these very visible inside the team.
Not only does this help your team to be invested in company, team, and individual performance, but it increases the odds that errors and discrepancies in your data are picked up on. *The most reliable data has eyes on it. *
9. Schedule regular maintenance.
Maintaining data quality in your business isn't a one-time job: it requires continual upkeep, cleanups, and optimization. If your organization has a dedicated operations manager, part of their job role can be to monitor and optimize data quality. But in any case, it's worth making data integrity and literacy part of your company DNA – or part of every team member's day-to-day role.
This means creating the foundations for healthy data to flow into your organization and undergo regular cleansing, alongside processes to fix problems and automate integration.
By optimizing data reliability, you can ensure your company can receive the most accurate results and insights from your database both now and further down the line as data integrity keeps gaining importance.
With automated two-way syncs between apps including your CRM and email marketing tool, you're in the best position to manage your data holistically, perform regular health checks, and create an updated 360-degree view of your customer data.