OREANDA-NEWS. August 26, 2016. I recently moved to the Pacific Northwest. New climate, new house. I decided for the first time to plant a garden. What did I do? Went to the nursery, picked up some plants, and put them in the ground. Wondering how that's going? Not well. Honestly, a little bit of planning could have saved me some headaches. I planted some things too early and others in the wrong spots.

What does this have to do with data? In many ways your CRM is like a garden. Proper planning and care help you grow your business. Not taking the time to plan could lead to many headaches over time. If I had taken the time to understand the climate differences, timing for planting different species, and the soil requirements, I would have a better garden. It's even more important to take this step before making plans for how you'll manage your data.

Who is using the customer data?

You want to make sure you understand who is using customer information within your organization so you can provide the best data to suit their needs. We're not talking abstract personas here, you want to know who is actually using the data. Run reports that show you who created and last modified data and how often they are viewing it. You likely have many teams making use of the data, so make sure you look at where users are accessing data. Sales and customer service may both engage with details of both account and contact data, but not in the same way. Getting to a finer level of detail on this will give you a much better picture of who is using your customer data.

What are the business needs for data?

So now you have a better understanding of who is using your customer data. Let's take a look at what the business needs are. In this case you're thinking about and discussing the business needs and priorities for data, not looking at technical needs and processes. Unfortunately my plants couldn't tell me exactly what their needs are, but you are in luck because those who are using your data can. You may need to shadow users, host discussions, or even poll them for specific pain points and thoughts on processes. Talk to your end users to understand data needs within different departments and discover issues that that governance and stewardship can address. Learn what they currently know, what they need to know, and what they wish they knew. This will help you identify gaps and map future goals.

Which data is used the most?

Not all data is created equal. Some get used far more frequently. Knowing what is most "in demand" will help you when prioritizing the work you want to do. Take a look at your CRM, check which fields are most complete for each record type and which fields are most frequently modified. Checking what is changed or populated is a great start, but you also want to understand what else is being done with that data. Is it sent to other systems, data warehouses, or applications?  For each field, which business tasks and processes is it a part of? For example, is the opportunity value being extracted and used in another location to help drive sales commission numbers?

How is the data being used?

Your CRM will give you considerable information about how the data is used, but it can't see everything. As part of their business process users may export, manipulate, or load data. You want to understand how they make use of it. Hold interviews to identify data that is relevant for these situations. Map out the processes in order to know how future changes may impact these uses.

What's the current data quality?

Getting a handle on your data quality is our only missing piece. There are many ways to approach measuring your data quality - to keep it under control, try measuring on:

  • Age - Time elapsed since the data was last modified.
  • Completeness - Percentage of records that include key data fields. 
  • Usage - Time since the data was last used in reports or other applications.
  • Accuracy - Matches against a trusted source. 
  • Consistency - Field formatting and spelling is the same across records (state/province, phone, country, etc.) 
  • Duplication - Amount of identical or very similar records that vary in quality.

Salesforce Data.com provides a great tool on the Appexchange to help you analyze your data, the Data.com Assessment App. Once installed, this app will help you understand the overall health of your data. Analyze your account, contact, and lead records for details on data completeness and quality.

Once you have a handle on the state of your data, it's time to work on setting your standards.