7 Productivity Tools for the Innovative Data Quality Leader

Are you a data quality leader? Leverage these low-cost productivity and communication tools to help accelerate the awareness of data quality across your organisation

Are you a data quality leader? Leverage these low-cost productivity and communication tools to help accelerate the awareness of data quality across your organisation

7 Productivity Tools for the Innovative Data Quality Leader

Want some tools for more inspired data quality leadership?

If you are looking to promote the wider adoption of data quality throughout your organisation these simple, low-cost, web-based applications might just help you and your team communicate, coordinate and collaborate far more effectively.

Every data quality leader needs a helping hand. These tools have been proven to deliver a wide range of benefits for both short-term, project based activities or those longer-term, more strategic aspirations.

They have been selected for the following reasons:

  • Value: The Web-based SaaS (software as a service) model means costs are low so no need for a lengthy procurement process, they also provide great benefits
  • Accessible: The benefit of internet hosting means there are no IT rollout headaches or connectivity issues
  • Simple: The training for these tools can be achieved in at most one or two hours, in most cases it is literally minutes
  • Innovative: They will help you consider new methods for collaborating, communicating and coordinating data quality activities within your organisation
  • Productive: These tools will help you and your team get more tasks done, in less time, essential for the cash-strapped, results-focused data quality leader

1. Basecamp : Collaborative Project Management Tool

Basecamp is the most useful web application I have discovered for managing projects, especially with distributed teams. Don’t let the simplicity of this tool fool you. I recently implemented Basecamp for a data project that had over 50 staff collaborating effectively across 4 timezones.

The core features include task assignments, messaging, milestone management, time allocation, file management, online notepads and an interactive discussion manager.

If you are leading a data quality project on a budget (particularly with external suppliers) then it will tick many boxes and the pricing structure means it is affordable by most organisations.

2. Zoho Creator : Create Your Own Application

Data Quality projects require a lot of workflows, project metadata and various databases to track activities and communication.

One product I’ve found incredibly useful is Zoho Creator. This is very similar to Microsoft Access but is hosted online and allows you to build some very effective applications that could certainly bolster the activities of a data quality initiative.

3. Mailchimp : Manage Your Stakeholder Communication

MailChimp is probably the simplest email distribution service available an most importantly it has an autoresponder feature. Basically, an autoresponder is useful for sending out a sequence of pre-created emails whenever a user signs up for some information. You see this a lot when you subscribe to a product webinar or any offer marketed on the internet, it’s the same service we use when you sign up to become a member of Data Quality Pro.

What has this got to do with data quality?

The biggest challenge faced by the data quality evangelist is education and communication. People simply don’t understand the value of data quality so tools like MailChimp will help you manage the distribution of relevant information to an interested audience.

Consider the business line manager who has attended an internal data quality presentation and wants to find out more. Rather than bombarding them with countless charts, surveys, reports, white papers and articles you can explain that by adding their email address to the “Management Education” list they will receive a fortnightly, fact-based piece of information explaining the value of data quality.

The beauty is that once you’ve created the sequence of emails, MailChimp does the rest.

It’s an excellent tool for promoting wider adoption of data quality as you can also post out out monthly achievements and lessons you learn along the way.

Power Tips:

  • Use the autoresponder feature to create an automated training curriculum, “drip-feeding” tips and techniques every week to those interested in data quality?
  • Use the statistical analysis tools to observe which type of audience is most interested in the topic, this can help you identify why parts of the business to focus your efforts on.

4. Survey Monkey : Gather Feedback and Understanding

What do people really think about quality of data in your business?

Using SurveyMonkey you can gather accurate feedback from across your organisation on any number of data quality related topics. I used this approach once to gather anecdotal evidence for why the data entry quality was so poor. The results added a completely different dimension to the traditional data quality assessment process. The system users felt like they finally had a voice and we were able to create a compelling case for action because the surveys were so rich with feedback.

Power Tips:

  • Surveys can be gathered anonymously or by person so obviously use this responsibly but you can include custom data with the person’s details. If you know the role or a particular application that a user is connected with then you can link customer feedback metrics to this custom data. This allows you to observe whether certain systems create lower morale amongst data entry workers for example or whether different management types have strong opinions towards data quality etc.
  • Segment your list of contacts so that different questions appear for different types of audience

5. Socialcast: Accelerate a Sense of Community

Think “Twitter behind the Corporate Firewall”.

SocialCast allows you to share ideas, questions, answers, status updates and links with everyone or select groups of employees. If you spend any amount of time on Twitter you can observe how powerful a medium this can be for spreading data quality awareness. You can now have the same benefits but in a far more private and controlled environment.

Power Tips:

  • By creating streams you can group like-minded individuals together to create some focus. For example, you may have multiple management reporting units across your company, by linking them into one stream you can get them to start sharing their data quality issues, improvements that worked, products they use, training materials they possess.
  • The search and filter features are great for listening into common issues and finding scarce resources.
  • The business intelligence tool can be used to provide accurate stats to help you measure the growth of your data quality community across the organisation.

6. Evernote : Capture Everything

Evernote allows you to record absolutely anything that you spot in your daily work activities. In a corporate setting I see lots of examples of how this can play out:

  • Call-centre worker has to complete a customer record but the system forces her to enter irrelevant information, create an Evernote snapshot
  • Manager is trying to understand a sales report and frequently misinterprets the information, create an Evernote snapshot
  • ETL support analyst spots some defective data flowing through a complex transformation, create an Evernote snapshot

But why can’t we just log these kind of issues to a standard fault management system?

Because they don’t exist. There are countless data quality issues observed every day by knowledge workers and most go unrecorded. Using a product like Evernote means that you can grab audio, image clips, text – any media you like and importantly store relevant metadata (tags) and notes connected with the issue. These can be relayed to a data quality team to get a much more realistic footprint of the types of data and information quality issues workers are experiencing.

I can see lots of uses for this because data defects can be quite abstract, they often don’t fit into a neat fault report so we need the “fuzzy” record of our experiences that this kind of tool permits.

Power Tips:

  • Evernote interprets visual images containing text and translates this into a digital note.
  • Audio feature means abstract issues and user feedback can be gathered.

7. GotoMeeting : Share, Save and Replay Your Presentations

GotoMeeting (and GotoWebinar) feature a great deal behind the scenes on Data Quality Pro.

Before I get an expert to share their experiences on the site I generally meet them online via GotoMeeting. I’ll record the session for memory and then arrange a future webinar with them via GotoWebinar. If a vendor wants to become a registered supplier on the site I first interview them via GotoMeeting to see if their technology or consulting services are a good fit.

As a Data Quality leader you can leverage GotoMeeting in so many ways. Here are just a few ideas:

  • Plan regular lunchtime tutorials using your data quality team members, talk about problems you’ve solved and give practical tips. Record each session and create a library demonstrating the value your team provides.
  • When presenting to senior stakeholders, switch on GotoMeeting, record the session and use a lapel microphone to record your presentation, make the recording available to the attendees afterwards in case they need to go back over a point they missed. Also useful for sharing with other stakeholders who couldn’t make the session, saving you time for a repeat meeting.
  • Perform more in-depth interviews via the web, use the web camera facility to get a better feel for the interviewees response to tough questions, for example

In Summary

The role of the data quality leader can be a challenging and complex one. 

You increasingly need to take on the role of communicator, educator, mediator, coordinator, peace-maker, collaborator and facilitator.

These tools can help you across all these roles but I don’t advise you to rush out and sign up to them all.

First think about your tactical initiatives and the improvement projects in your pipeline. How can these tools help you improve coordination and collaboration on projects?

Next, think strategic. How can these tools help you promote wider education and adoption of the data quality message?

Select the tools that give you an immediate edge and get started, I’ve used these on many data quality projects and the results have been profound.

Image credit: cc Flickr

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