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Why Process Matters in Data Management

The following stories are true:

Story #1: I was helping a client locate a new agency to assist with the redesign of the client’s website. The client asked me to contact a particular agency to invite them to respond to the client’s RFP.

I contacted the agency twice, once using their online “contact us” form, and once using their “info@” email listed on their website for sales queries.

I received no response to either inquiry. This was for a project valued at over $100,000.

Story #2: This twitter thread was forwarded to me by a friend of mine. It’s worth a read in its entirety, but in a nutshell is says this: A company he had worked for had been religiously running back up tapes of their systems, and sent those tapes to an offsite warehouse for safe storage. Years later, someone tested a tape and found out nothing had been written on it…ever.

(For those of you too young to remember, in the good old days, companies would back up all of their data on physical tapes and send those offsite, as part of an overall disaster recovery plan.)

So what do these two stories have to do with data management? That process matters.

In story #1, the process seems pretty obvious. When a website visitor completes an online “contact us” form, or someone uses the info@ email address to contact the company, someone at the company is responsible for responding to those inquiries.

In fact, that should really be just one of several steps in the process. The process should include how the staff person should respond to inquiries, and follow-up steps that are required (e.g., after responding to initial inquiry, set up phone call; assign to sales person; set up follow-up ticklers for those who don’t respond; etc.).

In story #2, a process was in place to run the back-ups and send them offsite (so far, so good), but there was no step in the process to ensure that the back-up tapes actually had data on them.

And so it goes for all of your data management rules. The process matters. And this is why process documentation is so important. Processes should be documented and shared with all staff who manage data.

So when you have some “error” in your data management, the first place you look is at your process documentation. Run through the steps documented and see if you can find where the error is occurring.

As I’ve written before, data management is a process, not an event. So make sure you’ve got your processes documented and you’re executing on them.

Wes Trochlil

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