The quality of your data reflects on your company’s ability to manage, increase and retain your customer base.  The accuracy and consistency of your CRM data available to the user community provides a path to accurate current and historic customer connections.   The processes and data rules executed as ‘best practices’ will provide assurance to the users of the value add of their personal CRM experiences, and also provide accurate analytics at the executive level.  Installing user confidence and data integrity within your CRM database necessitates the need for verifying the creation of the data, all the way through user access.

There are three main areas of focus for maintaining CRM data integrity which include: Preventative, Management and Corrective Action.  Each of these has been addressed within Microsoft CRM 2011; however, each of these should be included in an overall plan and laid out and executed with high importance within the business organization.  The following paragraphs provide the insight for creating and maintaining data integrity within CRM.

Preventative

As usual, preventative is always the best practice approach to increase reliability, confidence and overall quality of CRM data.  Paying attention to details while setting up the application and entering accurate data will result in better quality data and will reduce the need to repair bad data later.  Entering correct, accurate, and well defined data elements alleviates the need for cleanup in later stages.  Recommendations for preventative steps are listed below:

  • User Security (Read/Write privileges)
  • Duplicate Detection Rules Definition and Setup
  • Configuration Formatting and Validation Rules
  • Required/Business Recommended Fields Definition

User Security

The CRM application provides a means to restrict data access to users with a need to know.  By clearly defining each user type to what level of access to data they must have minimizes data entry errors and simplifies the data views.

Duplicate Detection

The CRM application does have duplicate detection capabilities to prevent the entry of multiple data records.  The system allows for creating detailed rules, by entity, of which will define what constitutes a duplicate record and then requesting direction of the user as to how to handle this newly created record.

Validation Rules

The CRM application has a means of validating data being entered into a field within each record prior to writing the information to the database.  When creating a field or using an existing field within the application, it is important to identify what data is needed to satisfy the field property and information being requested.  Examples of field level validation properties might be a date field defined as a date rather than a text or numeric value and a field with a number of possible values such as a pick list rather than an open text field.

Required/Recommended Fields

The CRM application provides a method of forcing or recommending data to be entered prior to accepting and writing the information to the database.  This requirement should be thought out in advance to enhance the quality and integrity of the overall record being created.

Preventative is by far the most important of the three concepts outlined in this document for maintaining CRM data integrity.  The next level of data quality has to do with the editing of existing data which is referred to as the Management of CRM data.

 

Management

Data already entered can be edited or modified as new information is captured.  While this capability is obviously necessary, errors or modifications from poor sources, or unauthorized users may do more harm than good.   Directives as to who, when and where updates will take place will once again alleviate the need for cleanup in later stages.  Recommendations for managing data (editing, modifying and tracking) are listed below:

  • User Security (Read/Write privileges)
  • Auditing
  • Business Process Rules

User Security

The user security capability provides a means to restrict data access to users with a need to update existing data and related information.  By clearly defining each user type to what level of access to data they must have minimizes data editing errors.

Auditing

While not all companies require data auditing, some companies have a need to track changes of records or fields for regulatory purposes and also as a typical course of action from a business standpoint.  The CRM application provides a means to audit data entry at the field level.  With this functionality in place, users can see what the values were changed to and what values those fields were previously set to.  The auditing functionality provides a means of implementing corrective action after the fact.  While this functionality is extremely valuable, it is recommended that preventative steps are put in place to minimize the need for auditing.

Business Process Rules

Establishing business rules for editing data must be created and defined to ensure information retains its integrity within the CRM database.  These rules may center through a particular group within the company, an approval process, or an owner designation of the customer or account.  This process definition will be created and executed based on CRM’s inherent user security levels.

Managing (editing, modifying and tracking) the changes are a means of identifying sources that negatively affect data integrity.  The identification of a poor source of information is an important catch point.  Upon identifying a need for improvement, corrective action should be taken to minimize future data integrity problems.    The next level of data quality has to do with Corrective Maintenance to repair bad data that has been identified.

 

Corrective Maintenance

The final frontier of data integrity is necessary when data has been found to require maintenance.  When corrective maintenance actions are required, the reasons for these actions should be identified and corrections made to add to the preventative steps.  The CRM application has some corrective functionality in place to address the continuation of database integrity.   With help from the system through duplicate detection, business processes in place, and audit monitoring, corrective maintenance may be the next step in maintaining data quality.  Recommendations for corrective maintenance are listed below:

  • Merging Records (Identified and presented to the user based on duplicate detection rules)
  • Periodic Data Cleanup
  • Database Backup

Merging Records

Based on the duplicate detection rules defined by the business and created through the system administrator, the application can identify the possibility of an existing record that is similar if not identical to the new one just created.  The system provides the ability to allow a decision by the user to continue and create the new record, or merge fields to enhance the original record with additional fields that are now available.  Integrity is maintained, the data record is potentially enhanced, and duplicate records are prevented from entry into the system.

Periodic Data Cleanup

It is certainly the goal to avoid data cleanup, however, even if all data integrity steps have been successful, checks should be in place to exercise a data cleanup process and ensure data has been properly entered and maintained.  This would be through system DE duplication verification and the monitoring of any auditing that is occurring.  Depending on what information has been identified as bad through an auditing process or verification of reporting information the data would be repaired or updated as needed.

Database Backup

It is very important to maintain a database backup.  If the Microsoft CRM is based On Premise, then it is up to the IT department to ensure periodic backups in the event that a major problem occurs.  With the Microsoft Online application, a backup is made available in the event a major problem occurs requiring a total recall of data.

Corrective Maintenance is a means of repairing, de-duplicating or restoring integrity.  In addition to the other preventative practices previously mentioned, these processes are necessary to have in place and need to be scheduled regularly to ensure the integrity of your data.

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