Tips for Good Data IntegrityBy My Service Depot on Friday, August 7, 2020
Good data integrity practices can help your field service business avoid critical mistakes.
With any growing field service business, you will always need to keep your data consistent and accessible. In other words, you will need good data integrity. This includes customer records, invoices, service histories, and more.
What is data integrity?
First, let’s establish a definition for data integrity. Data integrity can basically be defined as the maintenance of data and the ensuring that data remains accurate and consistent while in use in any given program or capacity.
As you use a data system more and more (whether a field service management software system or something offline like a filing cabinet), it naturally grows to contain a wealth of knowledge on your customer base. Having good data integrity will help ensure that any kind of reporting on the data you might do remains as accurate as possible. You want to avoid making decisions off of faulty or incomplete data, as this can do serious harm to your business.
Let’s go through some tips you can use to help ensure that you have good data integrity practices in place.
1. Make backups.
One of the easiest things you can do? Make consistent backups of your data. This is difficult to do with an offline data system like a ledger or a filing cabinet, but once you go digital, you have more options.
Whether you use a simple Excel file or a field service software program like Smart Service, creating consistent backups of your data helps ensure that your data gets preserved. To further ensure that your data stays safe, find a way to store your files somewhere outside the main computer you use, such as an external hard drive or a cloud file share. This helps should the worst happen and you experience the dreaded computer crash (or a fire, flood, or robbery).
With a healthy backup habit (or program in place to do it for you) you lose little to no work, since you can simply grab the latest copy from wherever you place your backups. This is definitely one of those situations where it’s better to be proactive than reactive, especially since something like a computer crash generally leaves no recoverable files.
2. Look for data entry errors.
With any kind of data entry, it’s hard to stay 100% accurate all the time. After all, we’re only human. You’ll want to get into the habit of looking for any kind of inconsistencies or mistakes in data fields that get entered by hand. When you run reports, a software system will look for specific lines in the data based on the parameters set. If you have a simple spelling mistake in a city field, for example, that will immediately throw off your data. This can take time and energy to correct.
3. Get rid of duplicates.
As time goes on, mistakes can happen and records can get re-created for whatever reason. As a result, you may have to deal with two records of the same customer, which can cause more headaches. Clean this up by eliminating the duplicate record. Sometimes this will involve you manually transferring some information into the proper record before removing the duplicate, but you’ll be glad you did once things return back to normal. No one wants to waste time scratching their head about which “John Smith” record is the proper one to use.
4. Set up default field values.
This ties back to point 2, but still bears mentioning on its own. Setting up fields so they can have a default value will not only help your data stay proper and accurate, but will also generally help anyone else who uses the system. While you won’t be able to do this for every field in your software, it is a good idea to set a default value where you can.
Limit access to your data files.
One of the last things to discuss ties with security. Only a few people should ever have direct access to your main database, or the computer that houses your most important data. Limiting this contact will help ensure that no one can do anything to affect (deliberately or not) your data or the computer that houses that data. Getting a virus spread through simple email is not a good way to start the day. For this reason, consider keeping a dedicated server machine that no one will use as a general workstation. If that’s not possible for you, try and make sure only a few trusted people can access the computer that houses your data.
Good data is a wonderful thing to have at your disposal, but bad data doesn’t do anyone any good. If you follow some of these steps, you’ll get one step closer to ensuring that your data remains correct and accurate.