Your data is one of your most valuable assets.
Without quality controls and standards in place to manage your information, it can very quickly become inaccurate, out of date and difficult to use.
Although data management tools such as spreadsheets or document management applications can be simple to use, very often the templates you carefully create to structure your data are altered to manage team and individual requirements. Suddenly new ‘templates’ start to appear, resulting in numerous versions that you cannot track and rules you were trying to implement being by-passed.
Databases are a great way to ensure that the structure of your data is maintained. However, purpose-built software applications that provide inbuilt process management, field and record level auditing, data import and reporting and analysis tools can provide you with much more than just a means to improve your data capture. Many customisable off-the-shelf software applications offer functionality that can:
- Ensure that critical information is captured at the right point in the process
- Automatically create an audit trail of updates to data
- Prompt users to complete the next step in a defined process
- Prevent users from moving to the next step in a process until specific information has been captured
- Guide users through completing complex processes in line with your Standard Operating Procedures (SOPS)
- Easily highlight any missing information
- Prevent unauthorised access to data or prevent specific actions being carried out based on permissions and opt outs
- Alert users to any data expiry restrictions or due dates for action
- Ensure any key information needed for reports or queries is consistently recorded against data by using pre-defined reference lists
- Where data is imported from external sources, ensure it adheres to defined standards by alerting users when any mandatory data is missing, or data does not match pre-defined reference list options
Additional functionality to encrypt and filter sensitive data and prevent unauthorised communication will help to ensure you comply with data usage legislation such as GDPR and the Data Protection Act.
As with any system, the data available to it is only as good as what has been put in and the system will only help you achieve your objectives if your team use it.
Providing systems that assist users in completing their job, rather than adding extra burdens will help users adopt the system more quickly and mean they are more likely to embrace the change that a new system brings. It is important to recognise that implementing these systems is not just about installing a new piece of software – real business changes are invoked and undoubtedly you will need to review your existing SOPs and even create some new ones. It can also be a challenge to move people to a new system, especially if you are using spreadsheets that are seen as quick, simple and user-friendly.
Keeping your reasons for change in mind, and the priorities of that change process will help you to define your implementation journey. Implementing in defined phases will allow you to go live more quickly and see return on your investment sooner as a result. This approach will also allow you to maintain momentum. It is important to recognise that your system and processes will change – and the quality of the data held in your system will open that data up for you and give you new insights into how that data can best be used to improving and enhance your business.