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Is your data rotten?

07 Mar 16

Article By Robert Blaas of Mettle Consulting

Left to its own devices, data rots, not only eroding its intrinsic value, but also that of the systems, and ultimately people, which depend upon it. Just like one rotten apple spoils the barrel, rotten data can spoil an organisation.

That’s because data is the raw material for all business applications, including the analytics solutions which support better decision-making. For these systems, if data is inaccurate, out of date or irrelevant, the analytics won’t deliver intelligence but could instead mislead. A fundamental principle of these systems, and indeed any business system, is that garbage in will result in garbage out.

As time goes by, data rot takes hold, particularly around information relating to people.

To illustrate, figures from Statistics New Zealand indicate that 38 per cent of people employed in this country will change their job within the next two years. That’s 3.2 per cent every month.

If the details of those people are contained in customer relationship management (CRM) systems which aren’t regularly updated, the value of the contacts in that system will reduce at a commensurate rate. Within two years, nearly two fifths of the value of the data will be eroded.

The loss of value is magnified when examining how inaccuracy affects business processes. Attempts to contact people who are no longer available wastes time and resource within any organisation. Sending them mail shots or other communications becomes pointless (and putting together those communications incurs a real cost, as does following up). If shipping details change, delivery fees will balloon (and convenience will suffer as people don’t receive expected items).

Data decay happens in almost any database – it’s an inevitable function of an ever-changing world and the temporal value of data. However, despite the fact the rot has a substantial effect on business processes, many organisations fail to actively manage the issue.

So how do you manage it?

It starts with an organisational cultural shift which acknowledges the value of information. That shift should encourage employees to be data stewards, and all play an active role in identifying and updating information to maintain accurate records.

There are, of course, data management tools available too - such as Master Data Management, and Microsoft’s Master Data Services and Data Quality Services – but unless a culture of data diligence is instilled, the value of those tools is likely to be limited.

You can get more information on data rot and many other information management related issues at

Article By Robert Blaas of Mettle Consulting

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