The rules of data – Don’t duplicate!

Intro 

An essential part of any system is the data. It doesn’t matter what app you use, processes you follow, or automations you build, if your data is bad the system won’t work.

So the first thing we need to address then is what is ‘Bad Data’? At its most straightforward bad data is anything incorrect or not relevant. As we go through this series of blog posts we will be diving deeper into the causes of bad data and what we can do to prevent it.

Why not to duplicate data

Today I want to start with a Duplicate Data.

The only thing worse than finding you didn’t store a bit of data is finding your have multiple copies with slightly different information. This is almost always caused by data being duplicated in multiple places, and then someway or another one bit of data get out of sync with the rest. Here is an example of how this can happen and the issue it can cause:

Let’s say you are creating a new opportunity for an existing Account. Whilst creating the new opportunity you decide to add a couple of Account details like the Primary Contact directly to the opportunity. A week later that Account calls up to inform you there is now a new Primary Contact, but your colleague answers and only updates the Account and not the opportunity. We have now accidentally ended up in a situation where our Account and Opportunity has two different Primary Contacts.

“Automate it!” I know some people will already be shouting as they read this. The truth is we can automate around a great deal of the downsides of duplicating data, but with every automation, you are adding complexity and failure points. A better alternative to duplicating data is to create views and reports that pulls together data from their various sources without duplicating it.

Multiple Apps

When we first meet many of our clients, their single biggest frustration is keeping data up to date in multiple places. They might, for example, be using Quickbooks for Finance, MailChimp for Marketing, PipeDrive for Sales, and Zendesk for Support.

Often the most cost-effective way to solve this data problem is to move from using multiple services to one which offers all of this functionality. In the case for our clients, this service is Zoho, but as this blog post isn’t a sale pitch for Zoho, I want to focus more on the idea of a single suite of software that covers all or most of your business needs.

Suppose you could just combine your sales and marketing into one app that is a vast reduction in data that needs to be kept in sync with each other. The more you can combine these services, the better.

What if there is no choice but to duplicate

There might be occasions where you have no choice but to duplicate data, in these case you should follow a couple of rules:

  • Automate as much of the data sync as possible. Manual work is prone to errors.
  • Minimise the amount of data synced between applications. The more data to keep in sync the more risk of errors.
  • Decide on a source of truth. When all else fails what data are you going to trust, we would always recommend this should be your CRM.

Next Time

In my next blog post, I will be focusing on the idea of storing calculated data and why it can lead to long term issues and tie you to a system you might not like.