Analyzing and cleaning data is not a linear process. Even with all the different stages that data goes through, there’s always room to refine the process. The first step is to look at your current processes and decide whether you’re making the most of the systems you have in place. Here’s how to decide when the time is right to upgrade in order to stay competitive in the data game.
Evaluate company size
Depending on the size of your company, small- to medium-sized companies can grow quickly in a short amount of time and thus have data stored in different systems that aren’t equipped to handle the amount of growth. Excel, in particular, doesn’t allow a transactional level of detail and isn’t a natural roll-up from journal entries so it’s hard to track revenue and expenses without a natural chart of accounts. Microsoft Dynamics GP, for example, makes the data accessible in an easy-to-read format for all parties involved in the financial process.
Easy to digest
An overarching goal of your wish list is to decide on a financial or accounting system that captures all the transactions within the company and then insert it naturally into a chart of accounts that can easily be reported on, such as with SAP or Oracle. With enterprise resource planning, the data warehouse that sits on top of it should cleanse the data in order for the system to analyze it in a format that is digestible for the information to be extracted and formatted.
An enterprise resource planning system should cleanse data to the point of cleaning out duplicates, merging employees, and deleting unique characters that would otherwise make the data unreadable in another system. Simply put, it should make the bad data into good data. Similarly, the transformational rules should extract the load with the data that needs to be transformed into the appropriate number or data format. Microsoft SQL Server uses a universal language that is readable by every program and user with a clean data warehouse.
Call for backup
It’s one thing to get a new system up and running, but it’s another to monitor the process once it’s in place. The financial nightmare of losing all your data from a hard drive means going back to bank statements and cash flow while leaving no room for error. Cloud-based programs like Microsoft Azure might be higher maintenance at setup but are less risky in the long run. A monthly cost for a virtual hosting platform that you don’t have to maintain outweighs the cost associated with hiring staff to maintain a phyiscal server on site.
Meet and greet
Picking a data system isn’t just a matter of deciding on a program but rather depends on the company you want to work with. Factors such as level of task complexity, in-house expertise, legacy system integration, robust discovery process, and budget should all be taken into consideration. A good vendor will help you consider all options, from selecting an out-of-the-box solution or customizing a program to making sure all your systems talk to each other to get you the results you want on the level you want, all while staying on board to make sure your systems stay up to date with the proper documentation in place.