If you were asked what your company’s most important assets were, you might reel off a list of the essentials such as sites, equipment, inventory stock and employees. However, what often gets overlooked, and increasingly becoming one of the most valuable assets, is company data.
Data-driven decisions are not a fleeting business trend but rather a new reality, and without complete, accurate data that can be relied on, the choices made by your business could be at risk. Data is, after all, the foundation of operations, driving critical business decisions — financial and non-financial. Doesn’t it make sense that having accurate, complete and consistent data be paramount? We recognise that sound data is the first building block to support the road to success, so take a look at our seven ways to improve your company’s data quality.
1. Understand your data
It’s important that you know what data you’re collecting, why you’re collecting it and where it comes from. Collecting irrelevant data can be expensive in terms of time and money with efforts needed for processing, storing to analysing it. It can also make it that much harder to accurately track what you do need. Be as forward-looking as possible, so focus on the data necessary to accomplish your goals. More importantly, make sure that every component is coming from a trusted and knowledgeable source.
2. Validating data and automation
Best practices tend to validate data as it comes in by automatically flagging missing, inconsistent or unexpected information. It also is important to ensure that data fields, calculations and formulas are tested for accuracy and consistency across all points of entry.
3. Consolidate systems
Use multiple systems to track data can be an unnecessary cost. Maintaining separate systems is not only expensive, but it causes problems with workflow, data consistency and reporting. Consolidating data into a single system or readily integrated systems gives you much more control over the integrity of data coming in and going out. Take for example an inventory management system integrated with your backend accounting systems. This data needs to be able to talk to each other and freely integrate so you don’t have any missing pieces of the picture to drive better decision making.
4. Data quality technology solutions
Using data quality technology across a company can streamline data improvements. This can result in maintaining consistent data standards across the organisation, which means your data can be more easily used for advanced, comprehensive and overall better decision making.
5. Approved administrator for your system
The responsibility for adding or altering fields, codes and locations should be limited to verified personnel only. Any potential changes to your database should be reviewed and approved through a clearly defined process. This is particularly important for manually changing data, for example, changing inventory stock quantities.
6. Run inventory stock reports frequently
Reports are the last checkpoint to verify data integrity. Regularly run a core set of baseline reports to review your data, identify anything unexpected and go back to the source to make any needed corrections.
7. Correct data ASAP
Data issues get more difficult to correct over time. Even relatively minor problems can quickly snowball if not promptly addressed and won’t help with better decision making for your business. For example, if you have similar data tags for similar products, and something looks surprising or not right, check your data with the source. If data is showing that more sales are actually for an incorrect product, then reordering more inventory stock of a product you don’t need can be costly. Don’t delay this and take action right away, you will certainly be glad you did.
Article by Melanie Chan in collaboration with our team of Unleashed Software inventory and business specialists. Melanie has been writing about inventory management for the past three years. When not writing about inventory management, you can find her eating her way through Auckland.