The volume of data that companies collect continues to increase every year as more businesses rely on data to make strategic decisions. To extract actionable insights, simply collecting data is not enough. Clean and properly managed data is the foundation of any business or marketing strategy. Reporting, analysis, campaign management, and strategic decision-making are only possible with accurate and up-to-date data. Businesses can ensure their data is clean by practicing good data hygiene.
What is data hygiene?
Data hygiene is the practice of ensuring that all datasets are “clean,” meaning they’re accurate, organized, and complete. With the number of data sources and sizes of datasets growing rapidly, neglecting proper data hygiene can quickly lead to a cascade of issues which can easily get out of hand. Poor data quality costs organizations an average of $12.9 million per year. Any error or mismanagement of your datasets can cause poor data hygiene and lead to problems like:
- inaccurate metrics resulting from incomplete data sets or duplicated data
- increased query and processing times from unnecessary data
- difficulty pinpointing issues due to unorganized data sets
- wasted time understanding cluttered datasets
Why is data hygiene important?
Having a good data hygiene plan in place results in data that are easily accessible and reliable. In an industry like digital marketing, we often collect data from multiple marketing channels, social media channels, and CRMs, as well as campaign managers like Google’s Campaign Manager 360. With all of these platforms working together, it is very important that a proper data flow and maintenance process is put in place, and the data we want such as spend, performance, conversions, and so on are coming from the correct source. Some other key reasons to maintain clean data:
- keep ever-growing amounts of data organized
- streamline and automate processes
- create a standard to measure success across multiple clients or channels
- efficiently identify errors in data by eliminating mistakes and upholding accuracy
Simple data hygiene practices
Now let’s look at how we approach data hygiene and how you can declutter your data starting today.
1. Visualize through data flow mapping
Have a clear understanding of your data flow; How will this data be used, what final metrics do you need, what data is required to achieve those metrics, and where will you be pulling the data from? Creating a data flow diagram with a tool like Lucidchart is a great way to visualize and audit your current data – ensuring that nothing is not missed or duplicated and showing you which metrics add zero value and can be purged.
2. Centralize all data sources
Once you have a good understanding of your data flow, put a system in place to centralize all of the data sources you use and datasets you build. A great option is to invest in a data warehouse solution like BigQuery or AWS. However, this can be costly for startups and SMEs. If you are managing multiple spreadsheets, creating a standardized file organization system and naming convention can turn your cluttered collection into a well-organized and easily accessible structure. To make the structure even easier to follow, incorporate the file names and locations into your data flow diagram. A good understanding of where your data is located leads to a significant reduction in time and effort when you have to pinpoint an error.
3. Standardize across accounts/clients
We now have one clean data structure! But data hygiene doesn’t end there. Let’s standardize the process, document it, and introduce it to all of your databases. Uniformity optimizes efficiency. Standardization of the databases you work with makes it easy to transition from one to another, communicate across accounts/clients, and delegate work to team members. Documentation helps create a more robust process and assists you and your team in conducting a detailed QA process that is measurable and repeatable. Don’t forget to check on your data hygiene on a regular basis. A routine review will ensure that you have high-quality data and dramatically reduce the time you spend addressing errors.
The amount of data we interact with every day is only growing. For businesses to conduct insightful analysis, provide great customer experience, and gain a competitive advantage, maintaining clean data is more important than ever. High-quality data hygiene is always front-of-mind for Mindgruve and has been an integral part of our success – and we would love to see the same for you.