The adage “Prevention is better than cure” is very well suited to the process of information management. It is extremely essential that the database is well-maintained, error-free and up-to-date so that the expenses of finding and correcting the errors can be minimized.
Regardless of the preventive measures taken to ensure perfection in the process of data entry, small errors may still creep in. Hence, measures for proper error detection, validation, and data cleansing should be in place.
Data cleansing is not just a process of determining and cleaning inaccurate data; it is also the means of finding the root cause of the problem and eliminating it for good. It is an extensive process which includes Quality Assurance (QA) with regard to format, completeness, data validation, error detection and correction, data scrubbing, and data assessment by subject matter experts (SMEs) (subject matter experts). However, to ensure the effectiveness of the data cleansing process, one must follow these principles.
A vision and strategy lay a strong foundation for a good data management policy and improve the overall quality of an organization’s data.
Before initiating the process of data cleansing, validation and correction will make the process less time-consuming and costly. To exemplify, while sorting data on location, one can achieve efficiency by checking all records for one specific location at one time.
Database design is the most essential principle of all as it would ensure that the data is not duplicated and that it is verified while it is being entered. If a good database design does not exist and the business is planning to have one, then the team needs to make sure that fields such as ‘data cleansed’, ‘name of the person who cleansed the data’, ‘time when the data was cleansed’, and the ‘result of the process’, are included.
One efficient principle to improve the process of data management is synergy between the custodians and key users in the organization. Their cordial relationship would guarantee data accuracy and would also avoid duplication of data validation processes.
Databases that are critical, have large volumes of information, or are easy to manage should be given priority.
The only way to judge the effectiveness of the data cleansing process is by setting targets and measuring the performance. Some of the measures to evaluate the performance are by conducting statistical checks on the data, quality control level and completeness.
One should have infallible feedback mechanisms in place. Data custodians and users within the organization should share their feedback with each other for the good of the organization and its information management system.
Data cleansing professionals should be guided and trained at regular intervals. In fact, proper training and education should be given right from the data collection stage. The collectors should be educated about a data custodian’s requirements, the data documentation process, application of standards, consistency, clarity, and legibility of the labels, etc.
It is necessary that clear lines of accountability are established in the preliminary stages. Furthermore, the data cleansing process should be transparent and a good audit method should also be followed.
Without proper documentation, it becomes impossible for data custodians to guarantee the accuracy of the data. Therefore, to ensure good data quality, every activity of the data cleansing process must be documented. Generally, documentation is of two types. The first type includes information on facts such as the recording of data checks done, when they were done, who did it, and what changes were done. The second type is recording metadata which records information at the level of dataset. Both types of documentation must be done to ensure zero compromise on the data quality.
In conclusion, businesses need to ensure that they use data cleansing techniques effectively as part of their information management strategy, to ensure the accuracy and quality of their data. This information can then be leveraged for a number of activities across operational teams, that will provide significant benefits to the organization.