Companies generate terabytes of data daily from customers, prospects and internal activities. That's a lot of information! But that information can go from powerful to overwhelming—or even useless—when companies don't determine how they will use all this information. This is why companies need a data management strategy—to take advantage of what they have collected and use it effectively.
When creating a data management strategy, try to keep the following pieces of advice in mind.
1. Let your business drive your data management strategy.
A data management strategy needs to be guided by the overall mission of the business and not the data compiled.
A question to consider is how the data obtained will serve the company's objectives. Executives often ask “What can we do with the data that we have?" instead of “What type of data do we need to compile to accomplish a certain goal?" Business owners may want to think first about what they need to know about the customer and then determine what data is needed to learn that.
2. Standardize and categorize the data.
The old expression of “garbage in, garbage out" applies here. If there is duplicate, inconsistent or inaccurate data, then no analysis will be worthwhile.
This can happen when data comes from many different internal system sources. When this happens, the data's meaning and context doesn't always match each other. Different applications may only keep part of the data on a customer or vendor based on its original purpose. (For example, your CRM system may only keep track of customers' prospecting activity, your accounting system knows what they bought and the support ticket system only documents when this customer called in for help.)
It's a good idea to have one set of standard data fields and categories as part of your data management strategy. Therefore, it is important to decide which of these sources will be primary and which will be secondary. Create documentation that clearly identifies the source of each data element, any cleansing or changes that occurred and the exact definition of each field so that others can use the data correctly.
Remember to perform continual data quality assessments to ensure it remains correct and useful.
3. Manage your people and processes.
Any insights that come from your data management strategy is greatly influenced by both of these. You may want to consider designating a chief data officer and other “data stewards" who will primarily manage the data and the processes associated with it.
Data can be accurate, but if it is not managed in an effective way, it may soon become useless. Even though your staff may only work on part of the data management strategy, it is important to have integrated training so everyone—across all departments—can work together toward the same goal. And any changes need to be clearly communicated to the team on an ongoing basis.
4. Store the data securely.
Businesses today are under constant attack from hackers. In the wrong hands, access to company information can be damaging. Significant efforts need to be taken to protect the data by controlling access to it.
This type of cybersecurity should become part of your company's culture. With so many people having access to your data through their handheld devices, it's difficult to keep it secure.
One way to find out your company's vulnerabilities is to hire a firm to give a risk assessment after trying to hack your data. If hackers can get access, you may want to add a layer of data encryption so it's more difficult to decipher what they have obtained.
It's hard to do a complete data management strategy all at once—it's a continuous process. First decide which parts of the strategy can have the biggest immediate impact on your company. Once you have that, you can then determine which pieces can be easily accomplished to show some early wins.
Read more articles on cybersecurity.