Congratulations on taking the first steps toward organizing and reining in your data analytics. The funny thing about data collection is that managing and understanding it is a neverending process. But so rewarding! Once you’ve established these best data practices, you’ll notice what a boon data can be to your operations.
Understanding Your Data
Before we dive into some data tips, let’s break everything down. To get on the same page, let’s define the concepts we’re going to be talking about with data integrity, quality, and insight. (Wow, it just so happens that this is one of our tips for later in maintaining these very same concepts!)
Data is the collection of information and statistics that tracks a business’s performance and other factors. Companies use analytics to cultivate, organize, and understand their data.
For your data to be adequate to use in making business decisions, it must have integrity, quality, and insight.
Data integrity is a process that ensures your data is high quality, accurate, contextual, easy to access and interpret, and secure. Data quality means that the information is useable for your specific purpose. And finally, data insight is the ability to find understanding in the information and make valuable discoveries.
Data integrity and quality both lead to deeper data insights.
6 Tips for Reaching Better Data Results
With data being as vital as it is in driving business, organizations should prioritize making the most of their data results. But, of course, a decision is only as good as the data it’s based on, so let’s go over some of the most important things your company can do to ensure better data integrity, quality, and insight.
Back-Up Data Frequently
Unfortunately, accidents and sabotage both happen. It’s better to be safe than sorry, so back up your data on a regular basis. That way, it will be easier to recover some data if your system crashes or you lose information to a cyber attack or a bug.
It may not prevent you from losing some things, but it can prevent you from losing absolutely everything. You can avoid total loss if you recover everything you’ve backed up.
This is important because it will mean your business can still function; losing all your data could possibly bring your business to a standstill. But also very important is that it can save your company’s relationship with its customers. As long as their sensitive information has not been compromised, recovering their data may just help them keep their trust in your business.
Always Validate Your Data
Before you begin your data collection, decide what you are looking for. You don’t need, or want, to grab everything you can just for the sake of having more information; if it isn’t useable, it only muddies the waters. Set firm parameters ahead of time.
Always ascertain that your process and your source haven’t been corrupted. For example, don’t let information into your data warehouse if it hasn’t been vetted first. To admit data into your system, it must be useable and accurate. Can’t use it or verify its authenticity? Toss it!
If you employ manual entry for your data collection, consider setting a restriction to control data values as they are entered. This can prevent a major goof, making your data more secure and ensuring its quality.
Track Data Sources with an Audit Trail
If there’s ever a problem with your data, you need to be able to backtrack and see where things went wrong, preventing the same error in the future.
This can be very helpful in a breach situation. An audit trail can zero in on what was taken and how it was able to happen. It might even be able to point to where the breach occurred.
Your company should be able to track every event related to its data. It should show if there’s any change, when it was, and who enacted it, forming a complete record of your data. This should be an automated and electronic process, so it’s tamper-resistant. Then be sure to test it regularly to assess its validity.
Keeping track of your data sources can test how strong your data integrity is. It can check the completeness, thoroughness, and consistency of your data, finding any errors.
Educate Your Team
Every employee who comes into contact with company data needs to respect it and be taught how to ensure its integrity. One very important part of that training should include why it is so important. When we understand the why’s of something, we are more likely to take it seriously.
Make proper data interactions a part of company culture, stressing the importance of careful handling. Help your employees embrace data-driven decisions and their impact on the organization. This way, everybody shares responsibility for it.
Your employees don’t need to be data experts, but they need to grasp how to use and protect data.
Improve Data Security
In this new age of remote work, securing your data is imperative. Having employees scattered and checking in remotely can leave your company vulnerable to a breach or malicious attack. Remote employees need to be taught best data practices.
Only approved employees should have access to your data servers and centers. Classify sensitive data and label it so the proper controls are applied. Doing both of these things cuts down on how many employees are accessing your data, reducing the chance of an inadvertent error. And then encrypt it, making it impossible for people without the key to understand your data.
Check your security system regularly to be sure it’s still effective. This includes updating your software as soon as it’s available, a critical part of security.
Standardize Your Data Across the Board
Create a shared understanding regarding your company’s data. Define what is considered valid and useable. Creating a standard definition will help your employees better understand what the data is used for.
Then settle on a single format and single way your data gets applied. Your data should always look the same and use the same metrics for all parts. If it isn’t all formatted uniformly, your data won’t be understood relative to the other pieces of data. Standardized formatting will give your employees better insights when it’s all understood the same.
Provide clarity. Identifying what you’re looking to measure will ensure higher data quality; it eliminates the distractions of extraneous data.
These are just a few basic steps a business can take to improve its relationship with its data. Data is a vast and complicated issue, of course, with many varying aspects. However, these tips are the first step any business should take when working with their data; without them, data can become chaos.