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Poor data quality can hold back a growing business

Rachel Wheeler Archive

When a growing company is still early in its developmental stage, it's common for business leaders to rely heavily on data as they seek to explore and get a better handle on the market. By gathering information, they can learn all kinds of things - the efficacy of their marketing plans, the condition of the economy around them and the buzz about their companies taking place on social media, to name just a few.

It's important, though, that aspiring entrepreneurs maintain the purity of their data if they move forward. If they don't have high standards for data quality as they oversee business growth, they may find themselves making costly mistakes that steer them in the wrong direction. They may target their marketing messages to the wrong audiences or attempt to sell their products in markets where they're not wanted.

According to Information Week, there's a clear need for growing businesses to be smarter about the way they use data. There's a clear motivation to focus on velocity, as ambitious entrepreneurs want to ramp up their efforts as quickly as possible. But Suresh Bharadwaj, retail industry principal, and Hari Natarajan, senior practice engagement manager, at Infosys, maintain that an emphasis on quality is important as well.

"Most consumer goods companies have stockpiles of data that keep growing from different sources - distributors, point of sale, in-store engagement," the two experts stated. "But most are poor in insights derived from that data. One reason could be because they haven't invested enough in the right business intelligence or big data tools. These could have helped them connect the dots, for instance, between sales and promotions or across end consumers, retailers and distributors."

Companies need to take a lot of precautions to ensure that their data-driven initiatives keep them growing at a respectable rate. Here are three in particular.

Connecting disjointed sources
One problem that businesses have with data quality is that they're constantly looking to obtain information from as many disparate sources as possible. They're communicating with customers directly via phone and email. They're tapping into social media outlets. They're purchasing data from other sources.

The snag is that often, these disjointed channels of information don't mix well. Furthermore, uniting them might mean joining together duplicate entries for the same person. It's natural for companies to tap into multiple sources of data - after all, they want to use as much information as possible so they can grow quickly. But for this to work, they need to make sure they're bridging the gaps between these disconnected data points.

Standing up for accuracy
Imperfections abound in the typical data set used by a business, especially if it's a smaller startup. Often, it's because of a human error, such as a typo or a mistaken wrong address. These mistakes are everywhere, and if companies don't correct them, they could be in trouble.

Information Week advises that data governance should be emphasized just as much as data discovery. Companies need to keep a close eye on all information they collect and make sure they can vouch for its accuracy.

Converting data into true insight
The final step is an important one - make sure all that data collection and purification doesn't go to waste. Collecting information is valuable, but it's all for naught unless companies capitalize on that knowledge. Growing businesses need to have "data philosophers" on hand to help make sense of all the information they're collecting. If they can't handle that, they may need to outsource the task to an outside consultant who can help.