We've all been there (and if you haven’t, you will, you young, skinny thing you). You’re at the doctor’s office, and she says “Well, you’re doing OK, but you need to drop some weight.” We knew it was coming. We've seen the tummy, the love handles, the jowliness under the chin. And worse, we know what we have to do. It’s simple. Eat less ice cream. Eat more veggies. Get off our bums and walk somewhere once in a while. It’s simple.
But simple isn't always easy. Simple can be very hard (ask a failed tightrope walker). We don’t want to eat our veggies when a Dove Bar tastes so much better. We want Insanely Effortless Fat Loss tablets and the Ultra Mega No-Effort Ab Machine to work so we don’t have to. But they don’t. It isn't easy. Losing weight is hard work. But it will make us feel better and help us live longer.
So it is with data.
Healthy Data, Healthy Business
Data is the key to not just a successful website, but a successful business. If we put together a healthy data plan, we can make our business feel better and live longer. We can utilize data to connect all the different parts of our organization: the catalog talking to the website talking to manufacturing talking to inventory talking to accounting. Changes trickle down to improve communication, remove duplicate data entry, and shape up our bottom line.
Sounds great! So where’s the Insane Business Data Shaper? What button can I push to combine my Quicken, those three Excel spreadsheets Bill has used to manage inventory since 1997 and the Publisher files Julie has been tweaking every season to put out our catalog?
It’s frolicking with the unicorns and the truly delicious fat-free sour cream. It doesn't exist. Sorry. *pause for weeping* Getting your data in shape is hard work. It means getting everyone together to determine what data runs your business. To accounting, a Widget may just be a cost and a price. However, manufacturing thinks it’s three parts Widgetum and two parts Thingamajig. And marketing is convinced it’s the most glorious, cost-saving, efficient, beautiful and powerful Widget brought to market since Sliced Bread Brand Widgets.
The good (and bad) news is: they’re all right. The better news is: all of this data can be combined! The worst news is: you have to do it. All of you.
You need to assemble the data in a way that makes sense to everyone, and contains all of those elements into one handy dandy collection. You need a meaningful and understandable way to enter and access the data. And you need to be able to access that data in all the different ways everyone needs it.
Give the Data a Workout
The best news is: you don’t have to do it alone. While there’s no magic button, no fat-burning pill of database creation, there are the personal trainers and dietitians of the database world. If you find the right partner, they can help put together a data plan that works for you, one that integrates into your current systems, or help find other systems that work better for you and your company. They won’t be able to put those text files in there for you at the push of the button, but they can help you put together plans of attack for everyone involved to get the data assembled into meaningful formats, ones that can be imported. Then they can develop, or integrate, systems that allow you to get data in and out of your shiny new system.
Just like showing up at your 20-year reunion fit and trim and making that dress look like it did when you first wore it (minus the shoulder pads, of course), being able to show off your new data system will make you glow with pride…and your competition sick with envy.
So remember, while getting your data together may be a lot of hard work, and though it may feel like it’s going to kill you at some point, it’s well worth the effort. And it doesn't need to be done alone.
Does your data need to shape up? Tell us about it.
"Ill-Advised," © 2010 Pascal, used under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic.