What good is your data if you can’t find what you’re looking for due to the mounds of information you have to sift through? Or worse, you find the information you need, but it’s out-of-date or simply incorrect.

These are both examples of a basic database concept, “Garbage In – Garbage Out,” caused by misleading, inaccurate, or incomplete data. Routine database maintenance is an absolute must to keep your information pipeline flowing. The next best thing would be to conduct a yearly database tune-up.

Here are some simple tasks you can perform to prepare your data for the coming year:

  1. Back up your database. And, then test the backup to be sure that it restores correctly. Of course, you should be doing this all along. From time-to-time, technology fails. Computer hardware sometime breaks and computer software can reveal runtime issues. And, databases can – and do – crash.
  2. Clean your data. Be sure imported data was imported correctly. Scrub duplicate data that is bloating your database. Consider purging older records that have not had recent activity. Keeping your database lean and mean can reduce the time needed to run reports and complete other data intensive activities.
  3. Standardize how data is entered into your database. Consider investing time to create documentation that outlines some procedures for creating new database entries and updating existing ones. Standardizing how your data entry personnel interact with the database can have an immediate, positive effect on the quality of your data.
  4. Communicate your data entry strategy. Talk to the people entering the data. Be sure they’re aware of any procedures that are in place for entering data. Offer training for both new hires and seasoned data entry employees as a way of socializing your database maintenance strategy and obtaining buy-in for your data entry methodologies.
  5. Be proactive in the coming year. Create a plan to routinely:
    • Back up your database to safeguard against technology failure
    • Clean your data to be sure only the needed information is stored
    • Standardize your data entry procedures to ensure data consistency
    • Communicate your organization’s data entry methodologies
    • Reexamine all of the above to further fine-tune your database information

An optimized database is an efficient database. And, operational efficiency leaves more time for your organization to focus on what it needs to do: engage constituents and forward your mission.

Need help with more complicated database warehousing, information cleanup, and strategy implementation? Consider contacting a professional consulting service for additional information.