Data can help businesses reduce costs, maintain productivity and better meet their customers’ needs. But it can also go bad.
“Data entry typos are the simplest issues, along with entering the right data but in the wrong field,” says Steve Farr, vice president of solutions and marketing at Experian Data Quality. “Beyond this we have more knotty problems – data that has been entered by customers directly and may conflict with what you already know. I am “Steve”, but also “Stephen”, I have multiple email addresses and don’t remember which one I used last time, these sorts of things.
“These may be honest oversights or allowable variances, but what if I am deliberately trying to hide my identity? I may be a previous bad debtor or even a fraudster.”
Data can also go bad because it is duplicated or goes out of date. “Duplicate records occur for many reasons associated with data acquisition, and the problems of identifying and then resolving duplicates can be very complex. Then people get married, move home and of course pass away, which means the data becomes incorrect,” says Farr. “Every year your data loses value if you don’t maintain it.
“We do a lot of work, with individual users and the industry as a whole, quantifying the problem. We commonly find databases with duplicate records over 10 per cent of the total.”
The implications of this are often associated with cost, agility and reputation. “Contacting people multiple times with the same offer or sending mailers to deceased people is just throwing money away,” says Farr. “Similarly, missed deliveries will incur courier costs and missed service calls can run into the thousands of pounds in some industries. But this inefficiency will also erode your brand and reputation, making all those up-sell and cross-sell activities harder to close.
“Agility is also affected, and we have seen this throughout the Covid-19 crisis. Contacting customers digitally and accurately became critical. In our 2021 Global data management research report, we found that 72 per cent of businesses said better data would have improved their response to the pandemic.”
But there is a solution – a data quality firewall for Microsoft Dynamics 365. With this, Experian Data Quality can help its customers understand what bad data they possess and fix it.
“The first thing to do is to actively intervene as the data is being entered,” says Farr. “This means providing a reference service to trusted data sources and a rapid check of the data as it is added.
“Then we need to apply all these checks to existing data – taking it and scrubbing it periodically for out-of-date information and duplicates. We have now added a data quality virus scan to the firewall which updates data to reflect the real world.”
With clean data as the starting point, businesses can use it to enrich external data sources such as geocoding for deliveries and demographic profiling for analysis. It enables them to better segment their data and solve tricky problems like delivering goods and services to non-address locations such as building sites or docking bays.
But what is involved before businesses can realise the full benefits of data enrichment?
“I think there are a few things to think about upfront,” says Farr. “First of all, you want to ensure that the data quality solution is fully integrated and up-to-date with the latest Microsoft standards.
“Beyond that, what reference data will you need access to? Will you be doing business in one country or multiple? Are you working with consumers only or businesses too? Business names and addresses can be more complex, with multiple addresses per organisation, many of which may be located in the same physical building as many other businesses.”
Read the full 2021 Global data management research report.
This article was originally published in the Autumn 2021 issue of Technology Record. To get future issues delivered directly to your inbox, sign up for a free subscription.
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