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Out With the Bad, In With the Good…Data That Is

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Jalene Ippolito November 10th, 2016

Analytics – it’s a hot topic among small and mid-size business owners and managers. They all want to learn more about it. How do I find and pull out the data I need? What’s the best tool to use for building a dashboard? How do I automate the process to cut back on the spreadsheet shuffle each month? These are just some of the common questions that come up. We’ve written about various dashboard tools that integrate with SAP Business One. Now let’s take a step back...ok a few steps back. Before you get to the fun stuff—building your fancy, colorful dashboard—there’s some prep work to do to ensure your analytics will give you what you need to make better business decisions.

Garbage in, garbage out

You’ve all heard the saying ‘garbage in, garbage out’, because it’s true. The data you get out of your system (i.e. the data that fuels your analytics) is only as good as the data that goes into it. According to research conducted by TDWI, only 60% of users are satisfied with the accuracy, quality and validity of their data. That means 40% of businesses are making decisions based on data they’re not confident in. As a business owner, that’s a scary thought!

So how do you make sure you’re using sound data to drive the future of your business?

1. Consolidate your systems.

We can’t say it enough. With each separate system you run, you increase the chance for error and potentially reduce the integrity of your data. Basically, you have a data problem – you have tons of data in multiple locations, but no way to use it.For example, a consulting firm might use Excel spreadsheets to track employees’ time. The project manager transfers the data from the timesheets into their project management system to update overall progress on the project. Then the HR department manually re-enters the data into their payroll system. And then the data is entered yet again into their accounting system to bill the client. Looking at timesheets alone, the data is being re-entered into three separate systems! This introduces three different occasions for data entry errors. Not to mention it adds extra time to your processes, making it difficult to get timely information from your systems.

With a single, integrated system, you can remove redundant data entry. You enter the information once and it flows through to the different stages of your process. You’ve reduced the chances for error and you have a single source of truth.

2. Set up user authorizations.

Now that you have all your data in one system, you’ll want to set up user roles to limit the information your staff have access to based on their function in the company. For example, there’s likely only a handful of people that need access to financial information. So you can restrict other employee's access to that information. Depending on your organizational structure, you many also have users that only need to view data, not enter it. Allow these people read only access to your database so they can pull the information they need, without risking unintentional entries. Implementing appropriate roles will help you avoid accidental entries or changes by users who aren’t familiar with that area of your system. And it will have the added benefit of making the system easier to use – each user will see only what they need to.

3. Train your team.

It’s important that you establish guidelines early on for how your data should be captured. Make sure your team is aware of what fields must be completed, what fields are optional, and what format you want the data entered in. Something as simple as the format for a phone number should be outlined and communicated to anyone responsible for entering data. This will come in handy later when you’re pulling reports – everything will be consistent and you can be confident that it’s accurate.Don’t stop with an initial training session though. Document your processes and keep them up-to-date. Your business will change over time and your processes will too. Be sure to reflect that in your documentation. It will be a useful guide for new hires as well as your existing team. And when the procedure is clearly documented, you’ll have fewer inaccuracies.

Most managers want faster insight into their business so they can make real-time, data-driven decisions. With all your data in a single system, you can spend less time consolidating and preparing your data, and more time analyzing it. The added confidence boost in the quality of the information doesn’t hurt either.

November 10th 2016
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