ERP best practices include many things, but data cleanup is one that’s rarely talked about. It’s not as attention-getting as cyber security, but it merits the attention of business owners. Why? Because data lies at the heart of a good ERP system. If the data isn’t clean, the information provided by the system can be faulty.
What Is Data Cleanup?
Data cleanup refers to the processes by which data is examined, organized, stored, or purged.
Consider the many ways in which data enters an ERP system:
- From the accounting department in the form of accounts payable, receivable, payroll, and similar transactions
- From sales, in the form of estimates, job orders, and sales orders
- From marketing, in the form of customer information, marketing promotions, and response rates
- From customer service, in the form of interactions, problem tickets, and resolutions
- From operations, in the form of warehouse data, inventory information, shipping, logistics, and supply chain updates
Taken separately, each piece of the data puzzle itself may be fine, but added together, there may be redundancies and inaccuracies.
A good example is what can happen among three points of data intersection: sales, marketing, and service. Sales may receive an order from customer ABC Shipping. Marketing has on their list ABC Shipping, Inc. And service may have listed the same account as ABC Ship. Although there are three records in the database, there’s only one customer.
Leaving three records in the database isn’t the end of the world, but it can lead to problems that compound and multiply if the data isn’t cleaned properly. Three catalogs mailed to the same customer may not sound so bad, but at a cost of $2.50 each (creation, printing, and postage), that’s $7.50 instead of $2.50—cleaning up the data could save $5 on that one direct mail promotion alone. Now, multiply that by 100 records that are duplicates, and suddenly the problem of aging, inaccurate data takes on new urgency. Multiple that figure by many mailings throughout the year, wasted time spent chasing down the accurate (parent) record, and purging inaccurate data, and you can see why year-end data cleaning is vital to a healthy ERP system.
Steps to Cleaning ERP Data
Year-end is a great time to clean up your old ERP data. Many companies take a little time after the holidays, when orders slow down and many people take vacation, to conduct inventory, update their systems, and generally clean things up for the new year.
To clean up your ERP data, follow these steps. You may want to have a consultant or data expert help if you’ve never cleaned up a database before or your database has significant errors.
- Make a copy of the current database. Be sure to do this as your first step! You never want to make changes to the master database unless you can restore a mistake with a copy.
- Download data in raw formats so that it can be moved into spreadsheets.
- Use spreadsheet functions such as sorting data to compare duplicates. If you find potential duplicates, flag them for manual review.
- Use an address cleaning service such as Acumatica Address Validation to finish cleaning address data.
- Ask someone from sales to review aging estimates to see which can be removed and which may be duplicates. A common place to find outdated data which can be removed from a system is among aging estimates that have already been moved into actual sales.
- Review customer complaints to ensure that all open service tickets are closed and resolved.
- Make a final copy of the clean data and restore the database.
An ERP system is only as good as the data that fuels it. Make sure that you start your new year off right with a clean, shiny database by performing a year-end data clean up.