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The Seven Deadly Sins of Data Management

  1. Incomplete Data

Like trying to put together a puzzle without all the pieces, attempting to understand and gain insight into your business with incomplete data is frustrating and often pointless. With holes in your data you can waste time and money, create inefficiencies and miss out on opportunities for growth.  Business processes must be in place to gather data correctly and completely. This is a wonderfully written article on what it means to have incomplete data using Twitter data as a case study.

  1. Incorrect Data

Incorrect data is even more dangerous for businesses as you can be drawing wrong conclusions about your business, your customers, or your place in the market. This leads to poor decision making and breaks down trust between you and your customers. Complete and correct data empowers businesses to thrive whereas incorrect data can cause a business to become lost in an increasingly competitive market.

  1. Not collecting enough data

This is about the questions you ask regarding your customers, users or partners. Learning just the basics isn’t enough to gain actionable insight to serve your community in a meaningful way. Don’t ask enough questions and you will have no idea what your customers need, think about your brand, or what leads to a customer moving on from your services. It makes serving your customers like throwing a dart at a map while blindfolded. Not collecting enough data is often pointless, frustrating, and detrimental to your bottom line.

  1. Collecting the wrong data

If you want to know and understand your customers, users or partners then you also have to be asking the right questions. Collecting obscure data that doesn’t further your purpose leads to costly waste which can ultimately kill your business. Collecting the data, organizing it, analyzing it and drawing conclusions can quickly eat up time and money without returns on that investment if you don’t have data that will provide you valuable insights. This article from Harvard Business Review is a great read to learn how to collect the right data and prevent leading your business down the wrong path.

  1. Failing to fully utilize the data

It may be the greatest sin of data management if after making the effort to create business processes that collect the right data in the right amount you fail to fully utilize that data. Part of developing actionable insights and understanding of the data is being willing to connect with other organizations or members that can help you understand the true value of your data. Too often management can develop an attitude of ownership over the data that causes them to lose out on the greatest benefits data has to offer. This results in choke holding their business and failing to capitalize on opportunities that enable growth.

  1. Misrepresenting the Data

The sin of misrepresenting your data is most often committed due to misinterpreting data results. When your data tells you that 41% of your customers prefer your service over one of your competitors it can be easy to represent that as 41% of your customers think you are the best competitor. However, is that really what the data is saying? No. Your company beating that single competitor and being the best are not the only two possibilities. This logical fallacy is common and misrepresents the data making it all the more essential to take a hard and unbiased look at what the data is truly showing you so you can understand your place in the larger market and ultimately represent the data to your community honestly. Fail to do that and trust is broken, putting your business in a toxic market.

  1. Unverified data

None of the previously listed issues can be truly fixed if you have unverified data. Some sources have little or no credibility so that even if you’re asking the right questions you won’t have answers you can trust. Your conclusions must be able to stand up to the test instead of leading you down the wrong path when put against pressure from the upper level in your organization, narrow margins in your market, rising costs or any other of the thousand issues that make business in today’s world increasingly challenging.


Overall, the 7 deadly sins of data management can be avoided through careful consideration of your goals, determining what questions once answered will enable you to better serve that purpose, and then developing actionable insights on that data. Think through the data you need to gather and strategically set forth processes in your operations to do so. Technology today enables us to utilize our data like never before but to make the most of the opportunity it affords us we must be responsible data managers and eliminate the 7 deadly sins from our data practices.



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