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Simon Washbrook

You Can’t Implement A CRM Database With Dirty Data. Or Can You?

You ‘can’, and your users couldn’t care less about your data quality. Until they come to use it. I once had a database user complain I’d sent their family our business emails (I used to be an in-house CRM database manager). Your conversation will no doubt go something like mine did:
THEM: “I did not give you those details.”
YOU: “You must have given them to me”
THEM: “I definitely did not”
YOU: “I can’t have made them up”
THEM: “You are an idiot. You are definitely wrong. How did you get them?”
After 20 years of managing databases and their users, it gets to you. If you want a really good laugh, ask your IT helpdesk for some of the stories they can repeat about users. Or look online. I think I’ve seen a number of blogs on the topics (one person phoned in that their PC had just turned off with no warning, to be asked to look behind and see if the power cable was still in the back of the computer – to have the answer – I can see anything, all the lights have gone off as the electricity has gone off). I’ll clarify what I’ve said earlier. Your users don’t care about their data quality. But they will the very moment they see it your database, or want to use it to target prospects.
image of surface dirty with bits of food for the article CRM database with dirty data
Your database (it’s only software storing characters and numbers you put in it after all) is only as good as the data in it and the person pressing the buttons getting the data out. And the more data you have the harder and longer time it takes to sort out. Now, you’ll no doubt be thinking it’ll takes ages to sort it out. You are right. It’ll be far more hard work in the short term than doing nothing. But then a CRM database is a long term thing. Not a immediate thing – a bit like networking. Sow the seeds, wait till the summer, then pull the carrots out of the ground. If you want your users to take to your new shiny database – the data in it has to be squeaky clean. That’s stuff in the right columns (without the town data being in the town field, you can’t then search for all contacts in London, or Birmingham for instance). Likewise the email field. It has to have the right email address in it. An extra space at the beginning, end, or somewhere in the middle makes it un-send-able.
No, you really can’t implement a ‘good’ CRM system without all your data being ‘good’. Good data is underrated, but it’s vital. Otherwise you can’t use it.
And just remember, most people don’t actually realise the quality of their own data until you show it to them in a clearer format, all nicely separated (which is how your database will need it if you plan to import it) i.e. prefix, firstname, middlename, lastname, suffix , job title, etc. all separated. Surnames will be in firstname fields. Postcodes will be in Town fields. I’ve seen job Titles or Company names being in address fields. All of this is fine if all you want to do is look up the details on your phone and call a contact, but when it goes into a database, that sort of mess makes the data useless. And you’ll get the blame. If you didn’t already know that.
Put on your thick skin for this project. Data is far harder to sort out that you expect.

Article ‘You can’t implement a CRM database with dirty data. Or can you?’ Written by Simon McNidder from Database First Aid .

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