Are You Building Mistake-Proof Data Entry Processes?

About 4 years ago I did a short stint of work for a UK telco in the UK. As part of the work we had to assess the quality of data and related processes.

My favourite part of this exercise (and if you’re not doing it then you’re missing a trick) was “walking the floor”.

I still find that you can often find far more serious data quality issues over a sociable cup of coffee and a bag of doughnuts than you can with a data quality arms cache.

Anyway, I found one guy who had been busily fixing data quality issues, largely by hand, for about 4 months.

The same issues. Day after day.

When I say same issues, I mean the SAME ISSUES.

This guy had unwittingly been fixing downstream issues that were overwritten every week when the upstream asset management system passed an update down the line.

He hadn’t flagged the issue but then he was a freelancer, paid by the hour. Hmmm.

We spotted it and flagged it up to management where everyone looked very confused, then embarrassed and then subsequently quite angry.

So they no doubt put in measures to prevent this after I left.

(Or perhaps he’s stuck in his own Telco Hades fixing the damn things even now).

Now this sounds crazy right? No-one in their right mind would fix the exact same issues, day after day, month after month.

But I can guarantee the same thing is going on somewhere in your company right now. People are fixing those same billing errors that have been there for years. Might not be the same bills but certainly the same type of data quality issues.

The key to reversing this trend is to build better processes (duh!) but with data quality mistake-proofing in mind.

Take the humble household plug as a prime example of simple mistake-proofing. You can’t (and how my kids have tried) put the plug into the socket any other way.

We need to get to the same place with that data of yours.

Those web forms? They’re a perfect place to start. Grab a bag of doughnuts, get some data entry clerks and developers around a table, look at the downstream dirt this data is collecting and knock out some ideas.

Sounds simple? That’s because it is. What’s more it’s directly linked to the bottom line as you reduce the web form churn and free up admin staff from fixing data all day.

And if you need some inspiration, watch this real-life video of some creative mistake-proofing: