How to make data cleanliness a high organisational priority for the long term
Databases will never be absolutely pristine, but with routine maintenance, we can identify suspicious patterns before they turn into unmanageable problems.
Maintaining a clean database is an ongoing task which is as much about the focus and enthusiasm of the people interacting with the data as it is about the database itself. To ensure that your database clean-up continues to progress steadily, we recommend the following strategies.
PLAN FOR ONGOING MANAGEMENT UPDATES
Maintaining quality data works best when there is enterprise-wide buy in. The Natural History Museum in London emphasised that the support of top management has been critical to their success in achieving staff commitment to clean data.
To avoid a drop-off in institutional support after the initial system implementation, we recommend designing a communications plan to keep management updated on your efforts. This should demonstrate qualitative and quantitative successes of data clean-up, i.e. what % or number of records have been cleaned and what those changes now enable the organisation to do or see.
Demonstrating a return on investment for keeping data clean helps to maintain a high profile for data management and justifies the allocation of additional resources to ongoing data scrubbing.
INTEGRATE CLEAN-UP WITH PERFORMANCE MANAGEMENT STRUCTURES
It’s true that out of sight is out of mind. Finding a way to keep your data statistics visible and front and centre of your organisation’s attention is key to maintaining momentum. In some institutions, metrics for supporting data clean-up and ensuring data entry quality are built into staff and departmental performance evaluations as KPIs. Accountability reinforces that clean data is an important institutional priority.
INVEST IN REGULAR TRAINING
New users begin using the system, staff change roles and responsibilities, applications get upgraded and people sometimes forget what they’ve been taught (it happens to the best of us!). Having regular sessions to refresh skills and encourage engagement provide opportunities for staff to gain confidence that they are working as efficiently as possible.
We suggest hosting an induction session for new users and investing in regular top up training for those who are using the system daily to make sure that bad practices aren’t creeping back in. Even power users can benefit from taking updated courses since new features are constantly integrated into the software.
Axiell can provide training for your team and we invite you to contact us with your training requirements at any time. If you are planning on running training internally, check out our blog on running effective systems training.
ESTABLISH A USER ADVISORY GROUP
User Advisory groups can be powerful drivers for change. One of our clients has representatives from each department who meet periodically to determine data entry policy for shared fields. Once decisions are approved by the group, departments update their data and adjust their data entry practices to reflect agreed upon terminology. With this approach, there is always an entity in place to monitor and deal constructively with changing data considerations.
DATA “HOUSE CALLS”
At the National Museums, Liverpool, IT staff offer data “house calls”. Designated IT representatives visit departments and provide guidance for specific groups of users. The outreach enables IT to address any system issues proactively while also creating an opportunity for users to become stakeholders in data quality. The personalised interaction creates a supportive environment where users feel free to ask questions about best practice.
ASK YOUR FELLOW AXIELL USERS FOR ADVICE
Other Axiell sites are also great sources of advice. Did you know EMu, Calm, Adlib, and Mimsy XG each have a client hosted listserv and / or forum? Requests to join these groups may be made by contacting Customer Support. While there is a first time for everything, we often find that other organisations have addressed challenging data entry projects and are open to sharing their knowledge. Several of the user groups also have document repositories that are rich resources of practical guidance.
User conferences are also an excellent opportunity to share best practice with your peers. View upcoming user conferences here.
We know data clean-up isn’t glamorous and is rarely high profile, so we’re here to cheer you on. If you share a data clean-up success story with us on LinkedIn or Twitter, we’ll be sure to spread the word.
Based on feedback to the Dirty Data session of the 2016 Axiell European User Group meeting, we were inspired to design a new Data Bootcamp. Our inaugural session is open to any Axiell system user and will be hosted in our Ottawa office on 7-8 December 2016. We will be reviewing data clean-up tools and strategies and providing moral support for the data lovers amongst us. For pricing and enrolment information or to enquire about scheduling a boot camp in your region, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.