Data, Data, everywhere, and it's never perfect. If you're considering using a CRM for the first time you may think "I don't have any data". If that's true, good for you, you can skip this and wait for my third post on the topic.

But I highly doubt it.

Everybody has data, whether its a contact list from Gmail or Outlook, Accounts, Contacts, products and pricing lists from Quickbooks, an export from an older CRM, or worst case scenario a bunch of excel spreadsheets, it's there and its often messy.

Before you start transferring data into a new CRM, I highly recommend cleaning it up. Otherwise you will either run into the same problems you had with your old system or a litany of entirely new problems. The biggest problem is distrust of the data, and by association, the system. If your data isn't accurate then the system is rendered useless. Why would you go looking in the system for someone's contact info if it's wrong half the time. Or if you found 6 John Remby's in the system all with various amounts of information. If the data is inaccurate, reporting is also going to be inaccurate. And You can't run your business on inaccurate reporting. Well, you can, but I'm guessing your business won't be around too long if you do.

Point of the story is to clean it up. You don't need to bring every single byte of information over to your new system. Try to merge duplicates, or remove them entirely. Follow-up with contacts to ensure their information is correct. Delete old or inaccurate contacts that you likely won't need any more. If you're migrating over to Salesforce there is now new functionality to help identify and prevent duplication. Or even more powerful is Demand Tools, by CRMFusion.

Getting the data clean and into your system is only half the battle. You then need to ensure that it stays that way. That will mean running routine audits, and cleansing your data 2-4 times a year. Think of it as seasonal house keeping. You will want to establish best practices for entering data to prevent duplicates. Such as making it standard practice to search for a contact or account prior to entering it into the system. Again, if you're using Salesforce, the Spring '15 Release comes with new DeDupe alert functionality. Additionally, with Salesforce you can get a license for Clean, that will ensure that your account and contact data is clean and enriches it with additional information where fields are blank. 

You want to start thinking about keeping your data clean when you first design your configuration. Employ validation rules to ensure that items are entered correctly, or utilize default values. Make specific fields required to enforce entry. If certain fields are limited to only a few options use picklists rather than free text to avoid typos. For yes/no type inquires use checkboxes. If you've been doing this a while you will know where your data weaknesses are. And if you're not, just look at your data. Is your team constantly misspelling State Names, are they failing to fill in key dates, etc. Your data can be your best friend in providing insight into the way your data is collected. A consultant will be worth their weight in gold if they are able to give you tips on the best ways to eliminate or prevent issues with data. 

Make sure to frequently review the data. Let people know your are keeping an eye on accuracy.  People don't respect what you don't inspect.

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