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The worst enemy of good analysis is bad data.  As the old adage goes, garbage in equals garbage out.

But this no longer has to be the case.  Here are three concrete steps you can take as a manager to improve the data that drives your ability to make good decisions.

1. Pick your battles

You have a ton of data, but a lot of it doesn’t matter for tracking the key performance indicators that drive your business. Don’t ask your team to spend time meticulously maintaining information that doesn’t drive performance.

To pick your battles with messy data, start with this quick checklist:

  • Identify the important values and activities
  • Don’t ask your team to do any more than the minimum
  • Start with KPIs that have a quick and visible payback

2. Make data quality a KPI

If you plan to compete on analytics then data quality is a performance driver. In a weekly review with your sales rep you might say, “Hey John, great job placing those 2 candidates last week, but I noticed you have 3 data errors this week already.  I need you to clean those up soon.”

Use errors in the indicators you selected from point 1 above as a negative when evaluating performance.

3. Fix it with smart guesses

If your average placement is $20k and you have a Job Order in your pipeline worth $2M, you know that something is wrong.  Or if a pay rate for a contract job is blank, you know that the job isn’t going to pay at 100% margin.

Fix this with a a good guess.  For example, take your average margin and the value of the Job Order, or if you’ve done enough business with that client, you can take their average margin.

Think you can do this in excel? Probably. Think you could write a few rules down for an admin to do every week? Probably. Think someone could write software to do this in an automated fashion, with better precision, available on demand?  We do too.

Imperfect data should not prevent you from being analytical. Use this 3 step approach to get some quick wins and get on the analytics band wagon.

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Fred Shilmover
Fred is founder and CEO of InsightSquared. Prior to InsightSquared Fred headed global IT and was an associate at Bessemer Venture Partners. His background includes an SMB consultancy he founded as well as corporate development at Salesforce.com. Fred has a B.S. from Tufts and an MBA from Harvard Business School.
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