This is a short tutorial for beginners to understand the first process in data management. Data will only become useful if it is clean, organized and secure.
We are all entrenched in data. Some of us may not even realize how much data we have and we may not know what to do with it and how it can help our business. Before you can really answer any of those big questions, you must manage the data at the very core. This means clean, organize and secure it. Only then can the data become a useful asset instead of a liability.
You have probably heard ‘bad data in, bad data out.’ It’s a popular saying because it’s true and there is absolutely no way around it. If you want to gain insightful information about your business from your data, it has to be accurate.
There are many ways to clean the data. Usually, it starts with deleting and/or merging duplicates. Second, it rids faulty information in one of two ways. You may either remove incomplete entries altogether, or you may work to complete the entries accurately.
Cleaning data can be done with software but I have found in my experience software alone can’t do the initial job as accurately as a person can. A manual review with software accompaniment is the most accurate way to clean most business data. Once you get the initial cleaning done, then software can be used more efficiently on it’s own.
Who cleans the data? Good question. The answer is usually two-fold. First, you probably need someone in the organization that knows what the data is, where it came from and how it was collected. They can be the goto person for the data analyst, someone like me who is literally going to take data that I’ve never seen before and scrub it. The data analyst is going to have questions and will need a key person that is knowledgeable about the data to drive decisions on how to proceed with incomplete data and how to organize it.
If you ever want to analyze data and draw insights and conclusions from your data, you must first organize it and get it into a database. When you are in the beginning stages of mastering your data, it can come from anywhere. It may come from files in a filing cabinet. It may come from a bunch of notes on napkins. Organizing the data is about transferring the data to a database. In order to do that, it needs to be mapped.
Organizing data is better explained as field mapping. First you must identify the data fields and their type. Then, you must match information to the appropriate data field with a consistent format appropriate for the type.
An easy example is a date. Let’s say it’s a start date. First, identify the field as “Start Date.” Then choose the format. You choose MM/DD/YYYY. Then, go to the data, find all the Start Dates and make sure each entry has the date in the matching format MM/DD/YYYY. Then upload the Start Date information to the State Date field on the database.
The data will break if you upload data that is not formatted correctly. If you upload some Start Dates as January 3, 2019, then 1/3/19, etc. you will have bad data and your upload will break. Or worse, it will upload a bunch of inconsistent information that can’t be properly sorted and you will have to start back at the cleaning process.
You can see why you need a data analyst to do this job. It is very tedious and time consuming and accuracy is key. Understand that most businesses have data in all sorts of locations. The sooner you get it cleaned and organized the sooner it can start automating your business. Don’t be ashamed if it’s hand written on post-it notes or napkins. The fact is, that is a reality and it’s where everybody starts. Most analysts love attacking these projects. It’s like color coordinating a closet, it just gives some people pure joy. I speak from experience. So, if you need a joyful data analyst to clean, organize and secure your data, please call.
Many people hear the term securing data and they immediately think of hackers. There is more! Yes, you need to protect your data from hackers and thieves but you also need to protect data from accidental deletion, fires and other natural disasters.
Because this is a guide for beginners I’m going to keep it as simple as possible. Follow the best practices for small business security.
- Use a firewall.
Regularly backup all data and store in at least two locations. One off sight.
Use cybersecurity software.
Use secure logins, passwords and multifactor identification.
Monitor the data 24/7 with security software and logs.
Have a plan if a breach occurs.
The best practice list above can be accomplished by a knowledgeable IT person. If you don’t have IT personnel on staff, call LJR Digital Media and consider hiring an IT firm or person to come and check on your processes each month to make sure everything is intact.
On that note, if you need to clean, organize and secure your data, call LJR Digital Media. We joyfully help companies and individuals with these tasks everyday and we want to help you.