From project reports and transactions to business contacts and budget forecasts, organization run on data. Almost all of that data is now online, stored in “common drives”, SharePoint, Salesforce.com, or data warehouses. However data is often poorly managed – duplicated in many places, hard to access and frequently out of date. Poor data management takes a toll on organizational efficiency, increases enterprise risk and ultimately defeats the purpose of storing the information in the first place.
5 Tips for Better Data Management
Keeping your organization’s data more effectively should be an ongoing priority for the IT department, even if the payoff is not immediate. Here are 5 tips for improving your data management:
- Review your current information/data assets: Look for staff time wasted, mistakes made, or operations made inefficient where the root-cause is data access/management.
- Look at information flow across the organization: If business-critical information is in people’s heads rather than online, we have communication problems and need to manage information better (e.g. recording and sharing meeting notes). On the flip side, if there is unnecessary, repetitive, or out-of-date documentation useful information gets lost in the noise.
- Make sure you are using the “right tools in the right way”: SharePoint, common drives, and email attachments quickly become a mess. Put in place guidelines such as:
- Share documents via a repository rather than through email attachments
- Use consistent naming/folder styles within repositories so that documents and versions are easy to find
- Plan for “future growth” (see #5). Tools like SharePoint, common drives, and even relational databases often do not scale well for long-term growth in data.
- Management MUST lead by example when using repositories.
- Make incremental improvements – not massive “one-step” changes: IT history is full of major projects that failed because too much was promised/attempted and too little was delivered. Major change can be achieved but it must be performed incrementally. For example, a quick migration strategy for all data stored in old archives could be a mistake. Perhaps old data can be left where it is while only new data is stored using new conventions and tools.
- Plan for the future: Far too often, IT decisions are based on the current, local environment. Often this lead to organizations not using the right tools in the right way as business requirements change.
Sometimes the biggest impact that IT professionals can have relates not to technology but to process. For organizations of all sizes, there are simple ways to improve how data and information is managed and shared. Facilitating this will invariably yield returns in organizational efficiency and fewer complaints from users of data. Now that’s the kind of value expected from an IT department!