Your Data Sucks

If you do any work in marketing or sales or just about anything these days you know that you get an overwhelming amount of data each day.  As it turns out, the real issue might not be the amount of the data but the quality of it.  The chart I’ve included today is from the Experian folks reminding us that “Garbage In, Garbage Out” is a truism we can’t avoid.  In fact, many of us are doing a really lousy job of doing so.

The state of data quality

I don’t think it’s a big surprise that the report states that only one third of companies manage their data quality strategy centrally, through a single director.  That, of course, means that:

66% of companies lack a coherent, centralized approach, says the report. Most have little centralization and manage data quality by individual department. For marketers to really take advantage of data insights, information needs to be accurate, consolidated and accessible in real time. A centralized organization-wide data management strategy is essential for marketing success.

I’ll give you an example.  Say you have great web analytics information and fantastic sales information from another data source.  If nobody took the time to figure out a “key”  – a field of data common to both databases – those two excellent, useful, actionable pieces of information can’t be synched up.  That’s why a coherent data schema is important and too many cooks, especailly unsupervised cooks, can really spoil this dish.

Even within a single data-gathering pool, poor planning can be a disaster.  Let’s say you are gathering address information.  If you don’t use a drop-down menu to populate the “state” field, you’re going to end up with typos, different abbreviations (AR, AK, ARK, AS could all be Arkansas) or someone using an abbreviation that your database thinks is another place entirely.  91% of companies suffer from common data errors, the main cause of which is human error. Experian again:

The high level of inaccurate information is brought about by a high level of human error. In many instances information entered across the organization is typed into a database at some point manually, by an employee or the customer directly. That exposes information to different levels of standardization, abbreviations and errors.

As with any part of your business, the quality of your actions is dependent on the quality of the information you have at  hand.  A little time spent on planning is worth a lot in improving that quality.  You agree?

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Filed under Consulting, Helpful Hints, Reality checks

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