Published in “Project Times” website, November 13, 2013
Click here for original article.
As we approach year-end, we start thinking about how we can squeeze the last bit of profit out of our projects. Of course, most companies are championing year-end sales and cost reduction projects. Although they aren’t poor choices, I’ve found that a sometimes surprising year-end priority can be a hidden secret to success – data cleanup.
I’ve yet to find a perfect company when it comes to data integrity; however, the best sail past their counterparts in the long run. In today’s information-overloaded society, big data, business intelligence and other data-related topics permeate the news. Yet, few executives accomplish tangible results with dedicated project teams focused on these topics. On the other hand, a concentrated effort to improve data integrity can set your company up for success in the New Year.
Data integrity is akin to the foundation in your house. Without it, there is no point in thinking about window coverings. On the other hand, it can be a key design element that affects the rest of the house. Thus, data integrity has a direct impact on the performance of your operational performance and your ability to successfully complete projects. Garbage in. Garbage out. In essence, if your data integrity isn’t solid, you’ll undoubtedly spend the majority of your time fighting fires instead of achieving project milestones.
I’ve found that data integrity is often overlooked because it isn’t as popular and exciting as pursuing the whale customer or implementing the latest fad such as Lean. On the other hand, it is one of the only solutions that requires zero capital investment and yet can have a significant, long term positive impact on your company’s bottom line and customer loyalty.
There are a few keys when pursuing a data integrity project. 1) Clean up the data. 2) Assign responsibility. 3) Track metrics.
- Clean up the data: Determine which data elements are critical for your business process and systems. Which master files such as items, bills of materials, and routings should be addressed? Which transactions inclusive of inventory movements, work order completions and shipping/ receiving transactions should be reviewed? Define which should be cleaned up. Determine the scope of work. Prioritize. Put together a plan. Execute the plan – input missing data and update existing data.
Although this step seems obvious, it is rarely done. For example, several of my clients have thousands of unnecessary items in their databases. It’s easy to be mixed up if you have slow moving, obsolete and new products mixed in with your “bread and butter items”. In one situation, I partnered with my client to remove the clutter. Suddenly, they not only could make much better sense of their reports but they also improved their understanding of costs and inventory – essential elements to customer service and profitability.
- Assign responsibility: No project can succeed without assigning responsibility. Why do we think data integrity will magically improve without formal plans to resolve? Perhaps it’s because we don’t explain why it’s of such a high value! Don’t fall in that trap. Assign responsibility for data integrity. Do not make it one person’s job. Data integrity must be a team sport. Develop cleanup plans with specific responsibilities and clarify routine maintenance. I’ve yet to see a data integrity project succeed unless it was incorporated into the daily routines, similar to safety. Last but not least, explain the importance. What could be more important to success with a sometimes boring yet vital topic?
- Track metrics: Tracking progress is always critical to a successful outcome. Monitor your cleanup plans and action items. Develop exception reports. These have proven invaluable as they minimize the effort required while maximizing the positive impact. No one has extra time. Thus, exception reports provide the answer to this dilemma by focusing solely on what’s important. Review and monitor frequently. Incorporate into daily routines. Add data integrity to performance objectives.
Focusing on data integrity will translate into improved business performance over the long term. I see it as a critical element in the foundation required to ensure effective decision-making, solid operational performance and for making significant leaps in terms of customer service and loyalty. It isn’t complex or expensive to implement. Will you take the direct, no capital required, and infrequently traveled road to improving your business?