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How accurate is your data? An SMB guide to data accuracy.

Data. It is estimated that there are 2.9 million emails sent per second, Google process 24 petabytes of data a day, and 20 hours of content is uploaded to YouTube every minute. There is a lot of data out there.  But what is the quality of the data? If we are making a critical business decision based on data, is it accurate? Let’s take a look at the quality framework of data, the importance of it being accurate, and how to craft a plan to ensure accurate data is obtained for your business.

The quality framework of data

For data to be of any use to a person it needs to fulfil these five characteristics. They are:

  • Accuracy: This takes a detailed look at the information and ensures that each piece is correct.
  • Completeness: This makes sure there isn’t a piece of data missing
  • Reliability: This looks at what the data looks like in different sources or systems. Are they the same or different? If there are differences then the information can be classed as unreliable. This could happen with dates as some regions capture dates as MM/DD/YYYY and others capture it as DD/MM/YYYY. Depending on the system interpreting the data you could get inaccuracies. 
  • Relevance: This looks at the reason why you have the information. This is especially important because of the POPI act and the GDPR. The person collecting and using the data needs to ensure it is relevant for their uses.
  • Timeliness: This looks at whether the information collected is outdated or not.

When we look at our data through these five characteristics we can note the quality of the data. One of the leading qualities is accuracy. But why is accuracy so important?

The importance of accurate data

Accurate data is the backbone of quality data. If the data is inaccurate then it would not matter if it is reliable, relevant, complete or timely. Data accuracy in a business has the following effects:

  • Lowering costs: When you have accurate data, you won’t waste money marketing to the wrong audience, chasing outdated leads, or having emails bouncing back.
  • Improving sales: With accurate prospecting data, you will be able to swiftly move your customer through the sales funnel and create more successful sales.
  • Enhancing decision-making: If your data is inaccurate, you could make  a decision which would end up costing you time, money and effort. By ensuring the data is accurate, you can ensure your forecasting and decision-making are backed by data.
  • Aiding in compliance: As mentioned earlier, there are laws in place which have put controls on the data people can collect and use. If your data is inaccurate, you could be in breach of some of these compliance rules and this may lead to serious consequences for you and your business.

A data accuracy plan

Now that we understand the importance of data accuracy, how do we ensure we have accurate data?

STEP 1: Define useful data

You first need to determine what data is important for your business. What information about your customers, vendors, suppliers, and employees is important for the operation of your business. When you have clearly defined the data you need to have you can move on.

STEP 2: Check your data

With the layout of important pieces of information for your business, you need to check if you have the data. After you have reviewed the data you have, you can send out a request to your customers, vendors, suppliers and employees to review the data you have and change any part of the data which is inaccurate.

STEP 3: Remove duplicates

As many people may have access to your databases, you may have duplicates. Delete the duplicates. Depending on how big and how long you have been in business this may take a few days but the long-term benefit will outweigh the short-term effort.

STEP 4: Assign access

Because many people may have access to your database, it is important to assign different levels of access to various parties. This way you can limit the people who can change data and ensure that data is changed according to your data governance strategy.

STEP 5: Create a data governance strategy

This will help to keep your data accurate and you will know who is responsible for keeping your data quality up to scratch. This is no longer an IT problem, but the entire organisation is responsible for ensuring that data is kept accurate so that business can be done in a cost-effective and profitable manner.

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