EVERY System has duplicate records. Get used to it!

One of the most common challenges all of my clients face is duplicate records. And the simple fact is, even the very best managed databases have some duplicate records. They are impossible to avoid. Why? There are several reasons:

  1. Your members use multiple emails. As a result, they may create new records that your system doesn’t detect as duplicate.
  2. Your members use multiple names, including nicknames. One of my best friends in middle school was named John Christopher. He went by Max. Go figure.
  3. Your members move. Is James Smith from ABC company the same guy as James Smith at XYZ company? Maybe.

First we have to accept that we cannot completely eliminate duplicate records. But we can do things to minimize the number of duplicates:

  1. Ensure our technology has duplicate-detection functionality, both on staff side and customer side. At a minimum your system should be checking for duplicate email addresses, but possibly more than that.
  2. Implement data integrity reports that check for potential duplicate records.
  3. Make sure staff is properly trained so that as they enter data, they are first checking to make sure the individual doesn’t already exist in the database.

Duplicate records are a fact of database life. Get used to it. But be sure to have procedures and tools in place to minimize duplicate records.


About Wes Trochlil

For over 30 years, Wes has worked in and with dozens of associations and membership organizations throughout the US, ranging in size from zero staff (all-volunteer) to over 700. In that time Wes has provided a range of consulting services, from general consulting on data management issues to full-scale, association-wide selection and implementation of association management systems.

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