Look after your data COAT!

Look after your data COAT!

- by Susan Walsh, Expert in Data Management

You should hopefully know by now that your data needs to have its COAT on. It’s a simple and effective method and this principle is applied to all The Classification Guru’s services and your data. But what you might not know is this: your data COAT also needs to be maintained.

Let’s put it this way… you wouldn’t invest tens or even hundreds of pounds in a warm winter jacket to protect you from the elements and then leave it in a heap to get dirty or let it come apart at the seams. So, why would you do that with your data? If you’ve just spent thousands on expert data classification, then you need to maintain it, so it stays expertly classified!

Why do I need to look after my COAT?

Your data will almost certainly be correct when you receive it. It’ll have its COAT on. It’ll be Consistent, Organised, Accurate and Trustworthy.  But, unless you look after it, it will only stay that way for a short period of time.

Updates and changes mean that before you know it, your once neat & tidy data sets will contain unclassified data, data that’s been incorrectly classified by your team or AI, typos, and cut & paste errors to name but a few.

Specifically, it is really, really important that you continue to check and maintain your data for any errors that can have a knock-on effect.

For example, let’s say you use IBM for IT services and you accidently misclassify this spend, say it’s £50k, as cleaning services. Then at the next refresh it’s picked up and classified again, and it comes to £100k and then the next refresh, it becomes £150k… You then have a major issue where you are counting your cleaning services spend as £150k plus whatever you are actually spending it on, and you’re not counting the £150k of IT spend with IBM.

So, what does that mean? Well, you may have agreed to a contract with a cleaning supplier for ‘x’ amount of value based on that data. But, in reality it’s maybe half of that, so then you might not be able to honour that price, or you find yourself in a situation where you have to pay it, but you don’t actually need that service at all.

On the flip side, you could be negotiating better rates with IBM based on usage of the product, but you don’t realise because it’s sitting under the wrong bucket at the moment, and that’s something that I can help with.

How do I maintain my data COAT?

The secret to keeping your data clean isn’t really a huge secret, it’s really a case of good housekeeping – you need to check and maintain it on a regular basis.

In the same way you regularly give your jackets and COATs a wash and fix up, regularly checking in with your data makes life easier in the long run. Just like sewing up any loose buttons and keeping your garments fresh, it’s a good idea to check in on your data on a monthly or quarterly basis. Remember, if you have a lot of data and a lot of inputs, you’ll need to check it more frequently.

Perhaps you have a 3rd party supplier checking your data for you. This is a great idea! But, it’s still really important you spot-check your data once in a while to ensure your supplier is fulfilling their obligations.

And, if your team is running the checks for you, make sure you check in with their progress once in a while to make sure everyone’s on board with the same standards and cleaning the data in the same way. It’s also a good opportunity for highlighting development areas for your team.

So, how frequently should you maintain your data COAT?

Well, let’s go back to that winter jacket analogy.

Leaving your jacket or COAT hanging up for a week doesn’t matter. It probably doesn’t matter if you leave it for a month. But leave that once clean and cosy COAT too long and by the time you decide you want to wear it again it’ll smell fusty; it’ll be dusty, the moths might even have had a go…

It’s the same with your data. Data that’s not maintained will slowly become unusable over time. Incorrect or conflicting information will build up. AI outputs become corrupted. And because you can’t afford to use bad data, you end up spending significant time or money to fix the problem. Ouch.

Regular data maintenance means:

  • Better data accuracy for better business decisions.
  • Avoiding a time-consuming and costly data clean-up operation (because your data won’t slowly become corrupted).
  • A better-trained and more-responsive data team. Doing a little bit of something regularly is always easier than doing a lot of it occasionally.
  • An informal opportunity to stay in touch with the work your 3rd party supplier is doing.

I can go through your existing data and I can do a quick check and just flag any errors, or I can do a full thorough check and fix any mistakes and make sure that your data is as perfect as it possibly can be.

If you want me to do that on a regular basis, I’m happy to do that as well, to make sure that you’re always making the best business decisions. Get in touch – it’s susan@theclassificationguru.com