A CRM Year in Review

What a year it has been! Microsoft has been quite busy with Dynamics CRM. We have seen the emergence of Marketing Pilot, strategic partnerships with InsideView, advances in Mobile and of course, CRM 2013, just to name a few. Let’s recall each of Microsoft’s major milestones:

Polaris release: We began the year with a new UI for online CRM users which had just been introduced the prior month. This gave us our first feeling of a more intuitive, flat UI. It was a great “teaser” to what was to come later in the year. Sales and service professionals were able to work much more easily and efficiently in CRM. What a great success! The concept of the Business Process Flow was shown in the new flattened UI. Included in the release was support for using CRM on an iPad and use of CRM in web browsers Safari, Chrome and Firefox. This signified the beginning of the shift to a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) strategy. Skype was introduced as an alternative to communication mediums in addition to Microsoft Lync. Lastly, Yammer was made available to integrate into the UI. While all of these updates applied only to online CRM users, the additional browsers were also supported in a companion release for on-premise through Update Rollup 12.

crm 2013 image 1Yammer: Microsoft acquired the social media company Yammer. It provides a communication medium by which employees may collaborate in a Facebook-like interface. Yammer may also be used to communicate with external audiences. All communications are held private and not available to the public internet.  The long-range implications include Yammer being used within/alongside Dynamics CRM, SharePoint, Office 365 and Skype. Already, the application can be used within Dynamics CRM.

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Netbreeze: Microsoft acquired the company Netbreeze which provides social media monitoring. In this way, your company is provided a snapshot summary (and can drill to the underlying data) of how it is perceived across social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. This data is invaluable to companies who need to actively monitor and respond to the public’s perception. Netbreeze is still a stand-alone application, but will be integrated with Dynamics CRM in the not too distant future.

Gemini release: In early second quarter, MarketingPilot was popularized. It opened up online integration to CRM, previously available only through 3rd party integration efforts. MarketPilot is a companion application which further extends CRM. It provides end-to-end marketing management capabilities beyond CRM’s marketing list and campaign management disciplines. This list of additional disciplines includes but is not limited to: strategy and planning, digital asset management, vendor management, media planning, and budget management. Also included in its capabilities are behavior tracking and landing pages which, prior to MarketingPilot’s integration, was supported only by products such as CoreMotives, ClickDimensions and Constant Contact. While MarketingPilot provides functions similar to these named applications, Microsoft has been clear that each of these and others have features that still present a compelling case to use these over or in addition to MarketingPilot.

CRM 2013 (aka Orion) major release: As we all know due to the buzz in the latter half of this year, CRM 2013 (aka Orion) was soft-released in October 2013 with the global kick-off launch in early November 2013.  The changes flat UI and business process flow adjustments from Polaris were incorporated into this new release.  It is available for both online and on premise customers.  Similar to the roll out of Polaris-like features, the Gemini hallmark MarketingPilot integration was also included in CRM 2013, but also made available to on premise users of CRM in addition to online users.  An additional major part of CRM 2013, as if the business process flow and Flat UI improvements weren’t enough, was mobile for tablets and smart phones.  There are many new features in the new release. See my prior blogs for some of those.

InsideView: Microsoft formed a strategic partnership with InsideView.  InsideView monitors publically available information sources on the internet and summarizes that information for companies and individuals. It has been available as a 3rd party add-in solution for Dynamics CRM for several years.  The data is displayed in a window inside of lead, opportunity, contact and account records. Through this partnership, Dynamics CRM Online users get to use the tool at no additional license cost and there is a discounted license cost for on premise CRM users.crm 2013 image 3

As you can see, much has happened in the world of Microsoft Dynamics CRM in calendar year 2013.  Microsoft plans to have approximately two major releases for online users every year.  Already, we know of a few enhancement releases coming, Leo and Vega.  We can’t wait to see what comes next.

More on Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013 – Fall 2013

Last month, I posted about the release of Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013 coming this fall. The target release date is October 2013. In this blog, I will expand on it by sharing some more features and provide additional insights:

MarketingPilot

  • Marketing receives much needed enhancements with the integration of MarketingPilot.  With the Gemini release of CRM earlier this year, MarketingPilot became available to CRM Online customers. In CRM 2013, MarketingPilot will be available for both online and on-premise customers.
  • MarketingPilot provides additional marketing functionality not currently available in CRM, such as the ability to track non-email marketing efforts, provide lead scoring, send email blasts, and to have greater document management capabilities.
  • Although MarketingPilot is still a stand-alone application, it comes with a CRM connector allowing seamless operation between the two systems. The user interface for MarketingPilot is similar to that of CRM enabling a quick adoption. Microsoft and MarketingPilot together now can offer a full life cycle marketing solution including the abilities to plan, execute, monitor, and optimize. For more information regarding MarketingPilot, visit their website.

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More on Mobile Access

  • Have you ever wanted the ability to search across records in multiple entities?  (Was Jane Doe a contact, lead, or did I include her name in a note somewhere? I can’t remember.)  You can do that in using CRM Mobil. It’ll be coming to CRM Online/on-premise soon after go-live, too.
  • Have you ever been online reviewing your accounts and lost your internet connection? CRM caches what you’ve looked at on your smartphone or tablet and allows you to keep reading it while you’re offline.
  • Use Skype to place phone calls right from your tablet or smartphone. You don’t have to write down the number and then place the call. Just press the phone number with your finger and voila!

Multiple License Options

  • Microsoft now gives you more options for licensing. You still have a full license and a license to a third party development access to CRM (to further the xRM capabilities of CRM), but now you have an in-between license. With this license, your users can read any entity and edit or create new accounts, contacts, cases, and leads, so long as their security role allows these options. This is a great way to save money on those junior roles or users who might just need to do a few things in CRM.

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More Changes – The “Little Things”

  • Records now auto-save on close or every 30 seconds.  No longer do you have to wonder if you saved that record; it does it for you.
  • There is now the concept of an “access team”. It is a flexible team that can change for every record (for example, for every opportunity). This will allow you to have different users able to read and edit those records they’re allowed to without the rigidity of making them own the record.
  • Real-time workflows. Yes, you read that right. A workflow can now be set up to fire immediately without having to wait for it to happen 20 seconds or 20 minutes later. This will help enable your teams to be that much more productive.
  • Outlook now loads faster. Due to some changes in how CRM is installed with Outlook, your Outlook client will now launch much more quickly giving you’re a few less moments to get that cup of coffee, but more time get in that extra email or two.
  • Coming shortly after the launch of CRM 2013, CRM will have a third option in using email. Presently, email has to be sent from the local user’s Outlook email (meaning it has to be running) or from a separate email server (making it another thing for your network admin to maintain). Now, there will be an option to have your CRM synced with Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo, MSN, Live, or Outlook.com email systems.  It will still let you track emails to CRM too.

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  • At times, our business processes call for some decisions to be made for us based on other factors. Pre-CRM 2013, often a skilled (and expensive) developer resource was needed to update CRM to perform to those needs. With CRM 2013, some of those behaviors can be set by a business analyst. Some of these include, setting a field’s value based on another field, hiding/showing a field, and setting a field to be required. Future upgrades will become easier using this functionality as it is potentially less code that will have to be adjusted by a developer.

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As you can see, CRM 2013 just keeps getting better. Users will have more options, flexibility, and ways to be much more productive while saving money. Can’t wait to see more? Contact Edgewater Fullscope to reserve your demonstration of CRM 2013 today.

Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013 – Fall 2013

In the fall of 2013 Microsoft will release their next major release of their Customer Relationship Management software, Dynamics CRM. The target date of this release is October 2013 and is a major step forward for those who desire a more intuitive, guided approach to CRM systems.  It also includes much needed enhancements in the realms of social collaboration and mobile access. Microsoft codenames intermediate releases after stars and originally planned for this release to be “Orion”. Microsoft has since made the decision for this to be a major release and have named it Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013. Some of the changes were partially available in the previous intermediate release named “Polaris”. This new release of CRM takes Polaris to an entirely new level. Below are a few highlights of the new platform:

Flat, Modern, Ubiquitous User Interface

  • The new user interface (UI) takes out much of the scrolling, clicking and “pop-ups” often associated with Dynamics CRM.  It has a more refined look and feel.

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  • The ribbon that used to be available across the top of the page has been streamlined and simplified, prominently displaying the most common used actions. Additional actions are available via the ellipsis drop down (which looks like three dots or “…”).  The redesigned ribbon is located in the top-left area just above the record type.
  • The enhanced UI simplifies the user experience and eliminates the classic navigation bar. This provides a great deal of additional real estate for higher valued, relevant information.

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  • The user experience has been significantly enhanced through an almost wholesale elimination of disorienting window “popups” in favor of a flat user experience, embedded window-quick forms and inline editing (including (finally!) support for the browser back button).
  • Until CRM 2013, customers requiring quote and order capabilities in CRM found the “popup” experience associated with these processes frustratingly cumbersome. A very significant enhancement we note is the streamlining of the Quote and Order processes which leverages the streamlined UI and inline editing of records (for example, Opportunity Products). Much better!

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Business Process Flow

  • In addition to the new UI, Microsoft provides a business process to be built into the records at the top of the page. This configurable flow allows a company to determine the recommended processes which need to be followed through a guided UI based on stages to complete various business practices, such as making a sale or servicing customer needs. There can be multiple flows depending on the needs of the business which updates dynamically based on user choice. The flow allows various records to automatically be opened based on a user’s present stage. This eliminates the decision work for the user. Like the stages, there are configurable actions in each stage to provide greater clarity and configured to meet business needs.

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Mobile Access

  • Previous releases of Dynamics CRM provided the lightweight “Mobile Express” which many found was not adequate for business needs. Many customers requiring mobile capabilities have relied on fully featured mobile ISV solutions. CRM 2013 has a mobile offering built in at no additional license fee freeing companies from the need to seek a third party ISV for a great mobile experience. For tablets, the iPad and Microsoft Windows 8 devices (including the Surface) are supported. Microsoft, iPhone and Android smart phones are also supported. Mobile will be accessible via a downloadable app from the device’s app store. The app will provide a user experience very similar to that of the browser, albeit scaled and adjusted to conform to the device’s screen limitations. This interface is optimized for touch.

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Social Media

  • Social media is a hot topic in business and is required for many companies. Microsoft has expanded on the “What’s New” and “Record Wall” features to make them more prominent on the CRM forms and dashboards, enabling internal communication in a social manner. In addition, with the acquisition of Yammer and its integration into CRM, companies may communicate not only with internal employees but with external customers and clients, all from a single application – Dynamics CRM. The relevant conversations from Yammer are pulled into the relevant records in CRM allowing users the ability to stay in the application and still receive the benefits of real-time conversations.*

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*Requires an additional license subscription. See Yammer for details.

There are many additional features and enhancements in the new CRM 2013 release. Some of these additional items include improvements to the native Outlook operation with CRM, searching across multiple entities, administration changes and business rules. As we get closer to release, we’ll learn many more details. Of course, if at any time you would like to discuss this or other CRM topics, feel free to contact us at crmdifference@fullscope.com.

Microsoft Dynamics CRM Polaris

In  December  2012,  Microsoft  released  their  next  interim  release  to  significantly  increase  the  functionality  of  Dynamics  CRM.  Microsoft  introduced  a  brand  new  look  and  feel  in  their  user  experience  (UX)  which  they  call  the  “Flow  UX.” They’ve  given  this  overall  release  the  code  name  “Polaris”  (after the star of the same name).

Microsoft  has  invested  a  great  deal  of  time  enhancing  CRM  to  bring  it  into  today’s  technology  age.  The  flow  of  the  sales  process  has  been  drastically  refreshed  and  is  much  more  intuitive. They have also spruced up the service case entity. The following is a review of the UX improvements:

  • Lead,  opportunity,  account,  contact,  and  case  entities  have  a  new  UX:
    • Pros:
      • Overall,  the  flow  within  and  between  the  entities  feels  a  lot  easier  and  more  intuitive
      • Within  lead  and  opportunity  entities,  there  is  now  a  built  in  set  of  sales  stages  and  sales  steps  to  help  guide  one  through  the  sales  process  and  an  equivalent  Service  stages/steps  in  the case entitypolaris graphic 1
      • There  is a built in social feed,  a type of Facebook-like conversation flow which  can  include  Yammerpolaris graphic 2
      • Creating tasks and phone calls got a lot easierpolaris graphic 3
      • Viewing and creating notes is easierpolaris graphic 4
      • Data  is  automatically  saved  upon  closing  a  record  or  every  30  seconds
      • Bing  Maps  integration  is  included  on-scree
      • Skype  support  is  imbedded  to  auto-dial  outgoing  calls  (by phone or Skype to Skype… a Skype account is required)
      • The  navigation  side-bar  is  automatically  minimized,  but  still  accessible
      • Ability  to  revert  to  the  classic  screen

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      • Existing  Dynamics  CRM  2011  Online  users  can  choose  to  opt-in  to  the  new  UI  –  it  is  not  forced  (but once opted in, the conversion con mentioned below adjusts permanently
    • Cons
      • Conversion  from  lead  will  now  automatically  create  an  opportunity  record  whether  you  want  to  create  one  or  not
      • There  is  no  ribbon  access  on  the  new  form  without  completely  reverting  to  the  classic  formpolaris graphic 6
        • Cannot create of any new, related record (such as an activity). The  +  sign  add-option  works  somewhat  but  is  clunky  (but is not available at all for entities
        • No  recalculate  option  for  opportunities
        • No  “Add  to  Marketing  List”,  “Follow”,  “Run  Workflow”,  or  “Start  Dialog”  options  along  with  other  missing  options
      • The  new  sales/service  stages  and  steps  are  one-size-fits-all  and  there  is  no  ability  to  make  them  required
      • There  is  no  auto-conversion  of  classic  forms  into  the  new  format
      • Jscript  is  not  available  on  the  new  forms  OnLoad,  OnSave,  or  OnChange
      • Auto-saving  of  data  becomes  a  training  issue  not  to  adjust  records  for  “demonstration  purposes”

In addition to the UX changes above, Polaris included some additional changes:

  • Browser  support  for  Firefox,  Chrome,  and  Safaripolaris graphic 7
  • Multiple  organizations  are  available  in  a  single  deployment  without  having  to  pay  for  additional  licenses
    • A  potential  application  would  be  to  have  test  and  production  organizational  instances
  • The  Resource  Center  has  been  removed  from  the  main  left-hand  navigation  menu

Presently,  Microsoft  has  made  the  availability  of  Polaris  to  CRM  2011  Online  customers  only.   If  you  have  an  on-premise  implementation  of  CRM,  the  Flow  UX  won’t  be  available  until  the  release  of  CRM,  code  named  “Orion”  coming  out  sometime  in  Q3  2013.   Until  then,  on  premise  users  can  at  least  experience  the  browser  updates  via  Update  Rollup  12.

Overall,  the  Polaris  release  is  a  good  next  step  forward  and  will  help  in  combatting  some  of  the  weaknesses  of  the  classic  UX  as  compared  to  some  of  Microsoft’s  competitors.   For  organizations  already  accustomed  to  using  Dynamics  CRM,  some  of  the  drawbacks  in  the  new  Process  UX  may  present  some  challenges.   Organizations  new  to  Dynamics  CRM  may  not  notice  all  or  any  of  the  drawbacks,  depending  on  their  needs.   Generally  speaking,  it  feels  like  there  are  several  additional  components  that  Microsoft  would  have  included  but  decided  to  postpone  to  a  later  date.   What  exactly  these  were,  I  hope  will  be  additional  activity  options  and  putting  back  in  the  loss  of  some  of  the  ribbon  options.   We  will  have  to  wait  for  Orion  to  find  out  for  sure.   In  the  meantime,  Polaris  provides  many  new  opportunities  to  provide  customer  relationship  management  than  we  had  before.

It’s tax season….the IRS does not have to be the only ones auditing!

Enabling auditing is a quick and effective way to help ensure data integrity.

Have you ever had a Sales Rep ask who changed the status of a record?

Have you ever wondered who deactivated a large set of account records?

These types of questions and hurdles can easily be answered through auditing.

Turn on auditing in Microsoft Dynamics CRM:

You can either:

  • Navigate to Settings, System, Administration, System Settings, Auditing tab
  • Navigate to Settings, System, Auditing, Global Audit Settings

Click the Start Auditing box then select the areas where you wish to enable auditing. You can hover over the area names such as “Common Entities” to see a list of the entities included.audit graphic 1

You also have the choice to customize which entities you would like to audit. Open the solution, click on the name of the entity and select “Auditing”.

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Be sure to read the fine print! When you select Auditing, all fields within the entity are being audited by default.  There are two options to disable fields.

Option 1: You can open each field that you do not want audited and click disable auditing.

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Option 2: You can select multiple fields on the entity and select ‘Edit’ and you can change the status of auditing per field there as well.

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Reviewing Audit History:

Navigate to the record, on the left side toolbar click Audit History.

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This view list the date a change was made to the record, who made the change, the event which occurred, the name of the field changed, the old value and the new value. In the example below, the Business Phone was changed from 904-555-1212 to 904-222-8888 and an extension was added which was previously blank. The change was made by Ashley Kleeman on 4/15/2013 at 12:06 pm.

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Review Security Roles:

Review security roles to ensure users have the appropriate access to view audit history. Open the security role, click on the Core Records tab and you will see the Audit related buttons at the bottom of the page under the Miscellaneous Privileges section. The average user only needs access to “View Audit History”.

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Why pay for CRM when I have Excel?

The Collaborating Game

“Software #1, are you available in the cloud?”

Someone once asked me, “Why should I pay good money for CRM when I have Microsoft Excel® and a shared folder?”  Well, that is a valid question.  It is true that Excel has features that would allow you to track information about their customers/clients, contacts, prospects, marketing events, etc.  You could easily have one workbook for all of these or separate workbooks.  You could even go to the extreme of hiding certain columns or rows and locking it down if those shouldn’t be seen by others.  Instead of emailing it out, it could be placed on a shared folder or someplace where everyone could have access to it.  This would definitely save you money…

What CRM provides is not just a way to spend money, but a way to save time and help support your business in ways that many don’t consider.

There are many ways that any CRM would make a value-added investment. Two of the foremost ways are: 1) A CRM connects and relates different records together as a part of the normal way the data is entered. You don’t have to remember to do this… it prompts you to do it! 2) It helps you remember to do activities you might have forgotten to do or document.

Let’s dissect Microsoft’s Dynamics CRM® in some more detail and understand some of the most important ways it offers you a return on your investment!

“A picture tells 1,000 words…”

The human mind can more quickly interpret and make decisions when seeing a picture than when reading.  This is why CRM has built in Dashboards to help get a visual understanding of your data.  You can analyze and drill down on your data graphically or quickly get to the underlying data too.

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Available in the cloud or on your desktop!

CRM is available when and where you need it. You can work how and when you want.  As of the December 2012 release, it is now even available on web browsers other than Internet Explorer so you may use it in the cloud the way you want to!

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Automatic associations/relationships between records

CRM is all about relationships… it is designed to prompt you to specify them.  No more wondering which account is connected with an opportunity or prospect.  Knowledge is power! Here are just a few of the related relationships:

Accounts related to one another:

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Opportunities related to an account:

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Contacts related to an account:

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“I totally forgot to do that…” or “I didn’t have time to do that…”

Forgetful?  Limited time?  Don’t worry – it happens to everyone.  CRM’s Workflows can automate tasks to make you more efficient.  It can also provide reminders for you so something is not overlooked.  You can always adjust them or make new ones too…

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Get everyone on the right page

CRM allows you to have multiple custom screens so that only the most appropriate layout and fields may be seen by a user… you can have multiple views of records too!

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CRM uses Dialogs to provide scripts so that users are all following the same process and/or asking the same questions

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Provides a medium to track back results based on activities

Ever launched a marketing campaign and you don’t know if it was worth the money?  CRM allows you to connect related responses to your campaign along with the prospects and opportunities it generates.

By following the opportunities to wins, the revenue generated relates back to the campaign allowing a 360-degree picture of the work

Successful campaigns can be duplicated to bring in more revenue and less successful campaigns can be retired to not waste precious time and resources on those rotten ventures…

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As you can see, CRM can bring value and Microsoft Dynamics CRM has some of the greatest value-providing ways to help you do more business with less time and waste.  Do you miss your excel though? Not to worry; you can still have your Excel!

At any time, you can export the data from CRM to Excel

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Now you decide… Would you consider paying for CRM over just using Excel?

Managing Data Integrity

When was the last time you looked at a view of data, report, or graph in CRM and said to yourself, “This doesn’t look right”? You’re not alone. Keeping data up-to-date is a common issue for many organizations. We rely on its accuracy for decision making. An example of decision-making from data is determining which resource to assign to a project. If the project pipeline is inaccurate, a more senior resource might get tied up in a smaller project when their skillset would have been better used on a more important project. Another example might be deciding to make an investment based on erroneous forecasts of that investment’s future.

When data is out-of-date and you recognize this, the risk of an inaccurate decision is diminished as you have the opportunity to contact the data owner(s) to get an update. When it goes unnoticed, the risk of bad decisions increases. While there are many reasons why data can get out of date, there is often one common root cause: the person responsible for entering the data did so incorrectly or failed to do so. Rather than demonizing a person, we can look to find ways to make it easier for the data to be kept up to date.

There are many factors that go into data integrity:

Does the responsible party for the data entry also own the information gathering mechanism?

This can manifest when there is a team assigned to a record or there is a disconnect and/or lag in the data gathering process. For example, if there is a government agency that only provides updates periodically, but management needs information more frequently, this can present a problem. Possible solutions:

  • One record – one owner. No team ownership of a record.
  • Talk with management about the data they want and the source if outside the direct control of the responsible party. Have an open dialogue if the data gathering mechanism is flawed or doesn’t meet the needs of management to decide on a best course of action.

Does data have to be kept up-to-date real time or can it be done periodically?

Not all decisions have to be made ad-hoc. Some decisions can be deferred, occurring weekly or monthly. It is important that an organization examine the risk associated with each data element. Those that supply data feeding high-risk areas or decisions needing to be made more often need updates frequently from their data owners. Those with less risk or are used less-often can have less emphasis on being kept up to date. Remember, at the end of the day, a person, somewhere, had to provide that data. As individuals, no one is perfect and it is unreasonable to expect perfection on every record, every field, every time. Prioritize!

Can data be automated?

There are many tools available that can be added on to your software that automates data gathering. There are many companies that have created tools that, for example, go out to the web and pull in data updates related to a search topic. Consider installing or developing such tools where appropriate. This will reduce the need for a person in your organization to be assigned to this task. It will save time and money!

Consider using a tool’s workflow or a manually created workflow to help remind data owners to make updates.

Many data tools have built in workflows. These can be used to set tasks or send an email periodically for data owners reminding them to update a record. An example might be to create a field called “Last update” which should be changed each time a person reviews the record to make updates to important fields. If this data is more than a week old, an email can be sent to the data owner. Where such tools are not available in the tool, one could use their email application to have a reoccurring task or calendar item to remind them. At last resort, a sticky note on a physical calendar can do the trick!

Data is the life-blood of an organization. Keeping it up-to-date is important for decision making affecting both small and big outcomes. Most data comes from people. Help your people by setting up reasonable, sound business practices and processes around data integrity. It won’t prevent erroneous data, but you’ll find less of it and will make you and your data owner’s work-lives much easier. For a case study about how Edgewater has followed these practices, click here for more information.