Data quality management - a daunting task?

16 November, 2010

Christine Christian

By Christine Christian
CEO,Dun & Bradstreet

The importance of data management cannot be over-stated. Its direct impact on the bottom line should make it a key priority for all businesses, including SMEs. Why then do so many organisations - big and small - have poor quality data?

The answer may lie in a lack of awareness about why it matters and how it impacts the bottom line. As well, management of data can seem like a daunting task when in reality it's not as cumbersome or daunting as executives believe. Following a few simple guidelines will allow a business to address this challenge and improve the effectiveness of your marketing and sales efforts.

The base from which a business starts will influence the time it takes to reach the end goal however the benefits ensure that the time and effort required to achieve optimal data quality are worthwhile.

The best place to start is to think about where the business wants to end up. Answering this question will allow you to get a better understanding of what data is needed so you can ensure the information you acquire is fit for the purpose it must serve.

Take a look at the data you already have and decide if it has relevance to the project. From there you can determine where you have gaps and what additional data is needed.

The next step is to consider the specific data elements that you need to achieve your objectives. When doing this you need to think beyond names and addresses as there is a wealth of other information that can be accessed to enrich your relationships and allow you to communicate more effectively with your customers and prospects. Consider for example whether email addresses are needed (and remember to consider spam laws if you opt to utilise this data), or if you need to segment your database by business size or industry.

It is not always easy to access this data and researching these factors can be a time consuming task - it is here that business intelligence specialists can provide valuable assistance. A business intelligence firm can wash your information against a comprehensive business database and append missing fields which will allow you to better segment your data and target your marketing and sales efforts more effectively.

However, building a database of comprehensive records for a particular project does not ensure the quality of the data over time. Every year in Australia:

  • 128,453 new companies commence trading
  • 4,147 companies change their name
  • 17,425 companies change their place of business
  • 7,802 companies and 4,128 businesses cease operations.

These statistics demonstrate that updating customer and prospect information on an ongoing basis must be a key part of any data quality management project.

Data quality cannot be left to look after itself. Once your business has achieved an optimal level of quality, continual investment in the process will allow your business to reap the benefits.


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