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Guest Blogger

By Wayne Parslow, Executive Vice President for EMEA, Validity

The value of data for driving successful business outcomes has been incredibly well documented.

Despite this, even the most prominent businesses have struggled to become data-driven. NewVantage Partners’ 2019 Big Data and AI Executive Survey  found that 72% of participants have yet to forge a data culture, and 53% state that they are not yet treating data as a business asset.

This is unfortunate, because when businesses ensure the data in their CRM is accurate, they enjoy myriad benefits. Forrester’s Insights-Driven Businesses Set The Pace For Global Growth report found businesses that embrace a data-driven strategy are growing 30% year-over-year.

What’s more, with the introduction of GDPR in 2018, keeping data accurate and up to date is now a key regulatory goal for businesses. Failing to achieve this could open them up to fines.

So, how can a company become data-driven?

Stick to the fundamentals – data governance and data quality

Proper data management is built on two core foundations working in tandem to support each other.

Data governance encompasses the people, processes, and technology employed to manage a business’ use of data. As such, it’s important to establish a standard for data that fits the business’ particular needs and processes, as well as a plan for enforcing and supporting that standard.

Data quality is determined by the actions on your data, which we’ll detail further into this piece.

Becoming data-driven begins with defining what each of these foundational elements mean to the business, and putting a framework in place to ensure their stability.

Data governance – it’s all about process and people

To successfully adopt a data-driven business mentality, a governance team is crucial. A comprehensive cross-functional approach is needed, so this team should include subject matter experts from all departments, guaranteeing compliance with industry standards and regulations.

Dependant on the size of the organisation, one might want to implement an executive level steering committee or even a Chief Data Officer (CDO) or Chief Marketing Technologist (CMT). In this setup, the CDO or CMT holds responsibility for the state of all company-wide data and any data initiatives.

A key goal in data management should be to simplify processes where possible. Fewer steps for an end user to remember and more process automation will result in a more proactive response to carrying out data best practices.

Making sure your end users are properly educated on why these data processes matter is important. Someone clued-up on why they’re performing certain tasks is naturally more invested in them.

Deploying the right technologies

“Technologies” is important here. There’s likely no one tool that will do everything you need based on the governance strategy you’ve set in place. Your technology setup will most likely be a strategic implementation of some innate CRM functionality married with third-party tools.

At the technology evaluation stage, you may realise that pieces of your data processes need to be altered. Expect technologies, like every other aspect of data management, to evolve – be willing and prepared to change with it.

The five stages of data quality

Data quality is not a one and done process, it’s a network of regimented, ongoing actions, of which there are five stages.

Profiling

Profiling is learning the state of your data. The data team is looking for accuracy, completeness and inconsistencies. Profiling will force you to question if the data is housed in the right location, robust enough for your business’ needs, easily analysed and reported on, and up to date.

Standardisation

Standardisation is necessary to allow the data to flow correctly through the organisation, and it’s likely that areas in need of standardisation were identified during profiling. For example, if marketing needs to send a communication to C-level clients, a sales rep is moving offices and needs a list of local prospects, or perhaps finance needs to see which deals are on track to close before the end of the fiscal year, implementing a standard for how titles, regions, and opportunity stages are entered enables those initiatives to be completed.

Deduplication

No CRM is free from duplicate records, so deduplication is essential to preventing this . Staying proactive with duplicate prevention and management will consistently provide end users with a complete view of their accounts, contacts and opportunities. It’s important then to create definitions for what you view as duplicate records. Then, find a flexible third-party tool that can be customised to merge duplicates based on those parameters.

Verification and enrichment

Data changes quickly for many reasons; you don’t want to find out about changes after the fact, and most certainly not at the tail end of poor ROI from marketing and sales campaigns.

Once your data has been through the previous three stages, you are in a position to verify that data. Using external sources to verify information about your current clients is just as valuable as doing so for new prospects. Enriching data with other key data points drives understanding of the companies you do business with and enables you to serve them better.

Monitoring

Even with proactive and automated deduplication, standardisation, verification, and enrichment, it’s essential to monitor data. Setting up dashboards and alerts that track data quality is another automated way to ensure the data remains healthy.

Having gone through the profiling stage, and with well-defined processes and standards in place, tracking is the easiest part. Automated exception reporting and duplicate alerts also go a long way in supporting data quality initiatives and educating users not in compliance with your data management protocols.

Any successful CRM relies on the quality of its data to function as intended, and there’s a reason not every company is truly data-driven yet. Data governance initiatives aren’t easy. They require tight controls, oversight and technology to ensure they’re fit for purpose now and in perpetuity. The rewards on offer are huge though, and if you’re not already following the steps laid out above already, you really should be.

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