Data Integrity: You Either Have It or You Don't

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Data Integrity: You Either Have It or You Don't

One of the most important assets for an organization is data, and a crucial business challenge is providing appropriate decision makers access to the data. Information must be timely, accurate and actionable to meet the needs of the organization, and in order to ensure better decision-making, there must be data integrity coming from both automated and manual processes.

While many retailers are puzzled on how to get started with reporting and resolving data integrity issues, without clean data, retailers will struggle to move to the next phase of more advanced analytics such as intelligent ordering to prevent out-of-stocks, or margin maintenance to grow category profitability.

Detailed reporting requirements for marketing, operations and accounting departments are not typically defined for an organization, and very little is understood on how to tailor reporting tools to meet the business needs. But it is critical to develop roles and accountabilities for report generation and analysis.

Key roles critical in achieving data integrity include:

Store Manager / Accounting -- Ensures accuracy and integrity of manually entered and polled data

Operations Manager -- Reviews daily, weekly and yearly operational reports

Category Manager -- Formulates target margins and strategies

Pricebook Department -- Ensures accurate maintenance of the items and monitors exceptions

IT / Analysts / Support Center -- Structures reports to meet department requirements

Senior Management -- Determines financial responsibility and reviews summary of reports

A crawl-walk-run approach to reporting and analysis has been adopted in the c-store industry, predominately due to the lack of data integrity. Information is often left untapped due to integration issues between disparate systems, and duplicate or inconsistent data is maintained outside of most data marts (secret places that smart people send data until you ask for it). Based on company requirements, multiple data entry points must be considered when building reports:

-- Facilities: Operations
-- Financial: Accounting / Executive
-- Pricebook: Merchandising / Marketing
-- Store Systems: Operations / Auditing/ Loss Prevention

Always remember to give your reports a checkup from time to time. An important competency self check for your organization should include a verification of reporting data with original source data to validate integrity.

Assess your systems and organization
- Define systems and data points
- Document reporting requirements

Identify current reports and reporting requirements for each role
- Formally document reporting requirements and track requests for new and updated reports
- Document descriptions and purpose of the report
- Determine usage and effectiveness of reports

Define roles and responsibilities for analysis
- By report type (promotions, cross-category, category specific, etc.)
- By source data (store, host, financial, operational)
- Provide executive summary "analysis" with each report with observations and insights
- Ensure that timing of reports and "snapshots" of the business correspond to the timeframe for review

Standardize reports by role when possible
- 80-90 percent consistent, standard reports
- 10-20 percent ad hoc, one-time reports

Reduce reporting distribution costs
- Reduce data processing time by eliminating duplicate and invalid reports
- Provide reports in an electronic format
- Utilize scheduling tool to generate reports

If you want to improve your company's data and access to information, make it a priority. Start by making a simple policy statement to lead your organization in the right direction:

"All reporting will be delivered on a timely basis, with accurate and actionable information."

Your data is what you make of it. It is your choice to have data integrity … or not.

Lisa Stewart
Impact 21 Group, LLC