Blog / 5 Data Management Essentials
Last week we looked at the concept of business intelligence (BI) and how it has become a useful tool for small businesses today. One of the key factors in using business intelligence wisely is leveraging your available data to its fullest, which makes collecting and managing that data an important part of your business intelligence strategy. Even if you haven’t created, or just are not using a complete business intelligence strategy, you can still reap benefits from managing your data. Just remember we’ll be assuming you’ve got BI on the brain as we dig into the details of data management.
Before we begin, let’s answer an important precursor question: What exactly is Data Management?
At its core, data management is the processes your business uses to gather, organize, validate, and store your data. Business intelligence uses that data to find opportunities and efficiencies, while business analytics uses the data to make projections about the future. Both of these concepts rely heavily on valid data that is relevant, organized, and easily accessible. Businesses can reap huge benefits from using good business intelligence and business analytics practices, but only if they’re using good data management processes.
What are those processes? They vary from business to business depending on the data each business gathers, the markets they serve, and other business-specific considerations. However, some basic data management concepts can apply to virtually all DM plans. Here is a short list of five basic-but-important considerations for planning out your data management strategy.
1) Build processes around security
This first tip shouldn’t be much of a surprise considering our modern world’s fixation on data security and privacy concerns. All the data management in the world won’t help if your data isn’t secure or your clients can’t trust you. Security is a vital consideration for every business these days, and while major breaches make big headlines, large companies can respond faster and absorb the costs related to a breach more easily than most small businesses.
While creating your processes, make sure you’re following security best-practices in your plans. Data should always be encrypted, and access to your data warehouse should be secured, regardless of whether you’re keeping it on-site, in the Cloud, or in a third-party data centre. If you’re keeping data inhouse, make sure logins are monitored and that logins and change logs/audit trails are being used to track activity. If you store your data in the Cloud or a data centre, make sure your provider uses industry-standard security best practices for safeguarding your valuable information. These are just a few of the security practices that you should be considering, so make sure you consult with an online security expert to ensure your data is secure.
2) Don’t forget about regulatory compliance
If information is power, then data is one of the most valuable commodities you have. That’s exactly why the collection, retention, use, and distribution of data has been heavily regulated, and not just in the health care and financial sectors. Any organization that collects and retains data of any kind, even if it’s just storing client email addresses, is subject to many provincial and federal regulatory requirements. Most of them deal with security which we’ve already addressed, but you also need to be vigilant about complying with regulations concerning what data can be requested, required, and retained. Specifics will vary by jurisdiction, so don’t rely on the notion that only the laws of where data is actually stored apply; not only is that untrue, it’s also bad business practice. For example, even though you don’t operate in the EU doesn’t mean you’re exempt from complying with the EU’s General Data Protection Regulations when collecting or handling data concerning your European clients. It’s always best to comply with the legal frameworks that affect your clients. Even if the regulations don’t necessarily apply to you, clients will likely appreciate you conforming to them as a sign you take data security seriously.
3) Only collect useful data
With the advent of the internet and social media, the number of data sources available to companies grew exponentially. The amount of information we began creating and and that businesses can now harvest has exploded. Data can be gleaned from emails, CRMs, accounting software, website visits, social media pages, and more! That’s an enormous amount of data that you have access to.
It’s also an enormous amount of data to manage, and while data management is crucial to an effective business intelligence strategy, there’s no point in managing data you don’t actually need.
So make sure you’re only collecting information that will be useful to you. This means making sure your web-based sign-up forms are straightforward, and the only *Required fields are ones you can’t do without. Not only will newcomers appreciate an easier and more straightforward process, but your data will be easier to handle and more relevant. The same concept applies to your corporate social media interactions, website visits, heatmaps, and software application reports. All of this information is likely available to you, but only some of it is worth the cost of gathering, organizing, and processing. A good data management strategy will focus on good data.
4) Keep data clean
Did you know that most data has an expiry date? Many people understand this concept subconsciously when they keep official documents for up to seven years, not realizing that limit is in place because a lot can happen in just one year, let alone seven. Companies rebrand and change names. Other companies refocus and change markets. Some companies fold, others get acquired, and some change offices or addresses. The point is that it doesn’t take seven years for data to go out-of-date. It might not even take a year if a company contact quits their job without notice and doesn’t inform you. Sometimes it only takes a few days for data to expire.
Expired data is just one of the many ways your data can get “dirty”. You might also have duplicate records (especially if you gather data on the same clients from multiple sources), false data from fake sign-ups, or bots (automated web robots) clicking on paid online ads. Simple human error can also introduce bogus information that could reduce the usefulness of your data.
So keep your data as “clean” and current as possible. You may want to dedicate a few hours each month to monitoring and cleaning your data, or perform annual data audits to make sure your data is valid. Invalid data not only reduces the usefulness of your data, it could be costly if it influences your analysis and produces bad strategy.
5) Backup and Recovery Plans
Data, unlike most other commodities, is easy to replicate, and you should take advantage of that benefit. You already know about the importance of your backups, but they become even more valuable if you use data for business intelligence and planning. You should be duplicating your valuable data and storing it for safe keeping, either in data centres with multiple locations (preferred), or on an external drive that is stored offsite. Also, make sure your data management plan includes regular backups of essential data, or makes allowances for your current backup schedule.
Data management is a crucial element of business intelligence and strategy, but it’s also useful for a variety of other purposes. Even if you’re not executing a BI strategy, good data management practices such as keeping your data clean and up to date will make it easier to access for more mundane purposes. There are also several data management tools available to small businesses, each with their own unique pros and cons. If you’d like more professional advice on developing an inhouse data management strategy, or for help setting up and managing data management software, please contact your TRINUS account manager.
The TRINUS team