Your Data Needs Regular Health Checkups, Too
Businesses collect data constantly but are not always so consistent evaluating if it best serves the strategy.
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Labeling any data as "bad" feels a little bit like betrayal to the true data fanatic, but you know when the data you're collecting is a little…well, under the weather. Website traffic suddenly drops to zero, you're missing data when you run your reports and names appear in five different formats. By that same token, you know what healthy data looks like. It's clear, easy to understand and ties into your overarching strategy.
Still, it can be hard to discern whether your data is truly in tip-top shape, and unless it is, the information you glean from it isn't going to propel your startup forward. It's important to regularly assess your data infrastructure for quality and effectiveness to fuel your business in the most efficient way possible.
The first step is creating a rubric so you can treat your data to a regular checkup. Here's how to get started:
1. Establish a metrics hierarchy.
Look at your overarching business goals, and prioritize your metrics accordingly. To ensure your goals are balanced, focus on the five pillars of success: strategy, methodology, technology, implementation and adoption. Then, prioritize goals for each of the pillars so your rubric can gauge the well-being of every layer of your operation.
Related: How Small Businesses Can Embrace Big Data
2. Share the responsibility.
When you know which metrics are important, hold yourself and your team accountable. Monitor your highest priorities yourself, setting a schedule for regular checkups. Plug it into your calendar so you don't forget.
Delegate other metrics, making sure everyone knows when and how they should be performing checkups and to whom they are reporting. Employees should be able to look at the metrics they're responsible for and detect any shifts in purpose or outliers that could be attributed to errors.
3. Create a rubric document.
Craft a living, breathing document that will act as your data standards guide. It should outline answers to questions such as "Does the data we're collecting tie into the overall strategy goals?" and "Does everybody understand best practices for naming and inputting data?"
Establish a checklist so the manager of that metric can cross-check that the data is living up to your standards at regular intervals.
Related: Data Crunch: 5 Analysis Tools for Small Businesses
4. Make it easy.
Your rubric should be accessible with the click of a button. It should be present on your team members' dashboards in a digestible, intuitive format so your team can navigate it with ease. In data, there is such a thing as too many choices, so don't create 20 reports if you only need five. There's no point in empowering everybody to take control of data health when the checklist itself is unhealthy.
5. Check early and often.
Create your rubric as soon as you can. Establishing a data-driven culture is important as you grow, and it's far easier to achieve this culture while your company is still young and mobile.
Your rubric should be like any other teammate. It should be involved in every decision you make and every meeting you attend. Embed the rubric into your processes, and schedule regular group checkups so you can collectively track your team members' data health and address any issues they might be facing.
6. Don't be afraid to change.
The whole point of establishing metrics in the first place is to help you achieve your overall business goals. If the data you're tracking turns out to be unrelated to your goals, shift your focus and reassess your hierarchy of metrics.
Your company is in constant flux. Your definition of a "healthy company," your priorities, your goals and the world around you will all change whether you like it or not. So your analytics system needs to grow with you.
Integrating analytics into your company culture will reveal whether you have an ineffective data infrastructure. Backed by good data, you can keep striving toward those beautiful business goals with the knowledge that you'll cross the finish line in great health.
Related: How to Lay the Foundation for a Data-Driven Business With A/B Testing