The internet has made it easier to collect information and create more of it too. No matter what you do, you're creating data every time you log on, use Google, or even just gun up a program on your local desktop.
This situation has resulted in vast amounts of data being available to companies, exponentially more than there was 20 or 30 years ago. And while this amount of data has created amazing opportunities for businesses, it's also created problems—such as how to manage the sheer amounts floating around.
Databases upon Databases
Companies today often have more than one database. Sometimes, they do have one central database, which can be broken down into many others. Databases could include customer profiles, accounts receivable, or even IT databases with program and ticket logs.
Over time, as information collects in these databases, they become larger and larger. Some companies may end up migrating the database from an older program to a newer one or into a new format. Procedures for inputting information might change. Of course, there's always the potential for erroneous entry as well.
Essentially, over time, databases become huge repositories of data—but only some of that data is accurate and useful.
A data cleanse, or data scrubbing, is the process of going into your databases and removing inaccurate or unhelpful entries.
Over time, data often becomes outdated; a customer might move, and his address will change. In some cases, this could lead to a duplicate entry, where the first record has the old address, and a new record is created for the new address, instead of simply updating the original.
Sometimes, there are errors when the information is input, such as a misspelling of a name. If the data is ever updated, errors might be introduced. And if you update your policies on how information is to be recorded in the database, old entries may no longer correspond to the new policies, leading to errors and incomplete information.
A data cleanse works through and cleans up all of this "mess."
The management of data in this day and age is a tall task, data cleansing aside! Many companies struggle to keep their databases up to date, let alone analyzed, organized, and truly complete. Duplicate entries and errors might linger for years.
The problem, of course, is these entries bog down your database. It becomes even larger than it needs to be, thanks to all this extraneous, essentially useless information. It can make searching the database more difficult—a spelling error might make it impossible to find a customer, while multiple records might return several entries for the same person.
Worse? It could skew your metrics. Say you have several records for the same customer, who has moved several times, and each record has a different address. The database will count each record as a separate customer, skewing the demographics of your customer base, and suggesting you have more customers in a geographic area than you do.
A Good Investment
Cleaning up your data isn't a small undertaking, but it can be important, as demonstrated.
So why don't companies undertake data cleanses more often? The simple answer is often time and money. Data management is an enormous task as it is, without asking someone to go through and clean up the database. Their time might be better spent on another task.
Since it takes so long to do, the cost can also be quite high. Yet it doesn't need to be. Instead, team up with a third-party provider to cleanse your data, while you and your team pay attention to more pressing matters.