Data Cleansing Fact vs. Fiction. Dispelling the Myths of Salesforce Data Quality

Posted on Posted in Data Quality, Salesforce

It’s time to clear the air, set the record straight, and deliver the truth.

The Salesforce community needs to hear this.

This past October our team flew to San Francisco to attend Dreamforce, Salesforce’s annual massive conference. It was our fifth time attending, but this year something surprised us.

We love talking data quality with other Salesforce users – brainstorming, problem solving, tips and tricks, best practices, things like that. A boring subject to some, but to Salesforce nerds like ourselves, there’s lots to be discussed on the subject matter.

We wanted to do a little research this year, to dig deeper to find out what really troubles Salesforce users in terms of data quality. So we held a live poll and asked people, “What’s your biggest challenge when it comes to Salesforce data?” The selection choices are listed below:

A. Dirty Data. My data is dirty, filled with duplicate, incomplete, and erroneous records.
B. Don’t trust it. I don’t trust my data. It’s unreliable and I have no confidence in it.
C. Data is scattered. Employees don’t use Salesforce 100% of the time. Data is scattered across different platforms.
D. It’s all manual. Too much manual work: manual entry, manual cleanup, manual maintenance.

results

More than half of those polled agreed that dirty data is their biggest struggle. (Had we had option E. All of the above, that would have won based on the overwhelming amount of people that said, “I struggle with all of these!”.)

The results didn’t surprise us. What did surprise us was how complacent and nonchalant people were admitting that they have dirty data and they’re not doing anything about it. It was like asking them, “Do you have old fast food wrappers stacked so high in your car that you can’t see the road?” to which they’d reply, “Of course! Who doesn’t?”

The more we talked to people, the more we realized how many misconceptions are out there about bad Salesforce data. So on the plane ride home, we nailed down the top myths we overheard about Salesforce data quality. The good news is that a data cleansing tool like Cloudingo made specifically for Salesforce, can get rid of those fast food wrappers so you can clearly navigate the road that is your pipeline.


Data Cleansing Fact vs. Fiction

 

1. You just have to accept it.

Fiction: Everyone has dirty data and tons of duplicate records. It’s just the nature of Salesforce and you have to live with it.

Fact: Dirty data doesn’t have to be, and shouldn’t be the norm. You have many options when it comes to cleaning your data. As a Salesforce admin you have the authority to enforce standardization procedures, train users on Salesforce best practices and data entry, and most importantly, take advantage of the Salesforce AppExchange. There are many data cleansing tools that are easy-to-use and allow you to automate the task.


2. What’s the big deal?

Fiction: Sure, I waste a lot of time going through duplicate records to find what I think is the most accurate record, and I may accidentally call a lead twice, but dirty data doesn’t really have a big effect on me and my business.

Fact: Besides wasting time sifting through duplicate records, dirty data creates other less obvious problems: reporting suffers, your reputation with clients may be damaged, productivity decreases, you may have ownership conflicts, opportunities are missed, and prospects are disqualified. In addition CRM users lose confidence and trust in the data and may resort to using outside systems that aren’t trackable.


3. Data cleansing won’t work for me.

Fiction: My Salesforce data is too unique and complex for any deduping tool to really find all of my duplicate records.

Fact: It’s true that there is not a one-click button to remove all duplicates. The reason is because what’s considered a duplicate in your org may not be considered a duplicate in someone else’s org. For example, Mailing Address may be considered a duplicate parameter for B2C companies but not for B2B organizations.

Flexibility is key when it comes to a data cleansing tool, like Cloudingo for example. Cloudingo uses user-defined filters to find records that match on any of your standard or custom Salesforce fields – name, email, company, state, etc. The good news is that Cloudingo was designed to be just as flexible and dynamic as your data. The matching possibilities are endless, and filters can find exact or fuzzy matches. Users are encouraged to use the prebuilt filters first, such as Full Name and Email, then create custom filters to do a second or even third pass to dig deeper to catch all the duplicates.


4. I wouldn’t know where to begin.

Fiction: Cleaning my entire Salesforce org is overwhelming and somewhat nerve-wracking.

Fact: As the saying goes, “It’s a marathon, not a sprint.” A good rule of thumb is to tackle dirty data like you would a to-do list: break it down into small, achievable goals. Start with a subset of Account records first and focus on exact matches. Working with less data will improve your understanding of the deduping process and allow you to see what’s happening to your data. This practice will consequently increase your confidence and abolish any hesitations you may have.


5. There’s too many risks.

Fiction: Cleaning data with an integrated app is not secure and exposes my data.

Fact: Any good deduplication application that integrates with Salesforce, in fact any application of any sort that integrates with Salesforce, should guarantee data security. With Cloudingo, your data remains in Salesforce. Cloudingo is not an extraction tool. Cloudingo builds indexes of your fields to keep its analyses organized but the data itself stays in Salesforce. When you display records within the Cloudingo UI, Cloudingo makes a real time API call to Salesforce to display that data, then releases it when you close the window or move to another page. Access to Cloudingo is controlled by users with defined access IDs and stringent password requirements. And the Cloudingo servers are housed in a secured data center that follows all standard security protocols.


6. Data cleansing can wait.

Fiction: We have dirty data, but it’s not that big of an issue for us right now. We’ll deal with it later.

Fact: Do you really have an understanding of how many of your records are duplicates? Most Cloudingo users are surprised to learn just how poor their data quality is. (By the way, you can see how many duplicates you have when you start a free Cloudingo trial.) Don’t put data cleaning off until you absolutely need it. Duplicates pile up, and the more that infiltrate your org, the harder the task of cleaning them will be.

Data cleansing isn’t just about eliminating duplicate records in your Salesforce org. It’s also a time to remove junk records, verify information, fill in blanks where data is missing, and fix formatting issues so you have a lean and more usable set of records.

An added benefit of cleaning data is the opportunity to evaluate current standards and procedures, and to identify trouble areas. What you thought was a best practice for your organization may turn out to be less effective than originally imagined and a different method may be needed.


7. Leave well enough alone.

Fiction: It’s better (and safer) to leave all my records as they are, even if there are duplicates. If I delete records there’s a chance that I could lose important data.

Fact: Many people think that getting rid of duplicate records means deleting records. Deleting records (like those without email addresses and no activity in two years) does have its benefits, such as cleaning up space and reducing database limits, which in turn lowers CRM subscription costs. However, most of the time it’s best to merge duplicate records. Merging records allows you to carry over all notes, activities, attachments, etc. to the final record so that you never lose essential information or contacts. And with a flexible tool like Cloudingo, users have the ability to precisely define how records get merged.


8. It’s not worth the trouble.

Fiction: Deduping records is hard and requires too much manual work.

Fact: Deduping records and cleaning data doesn’t have to be difficult or time consuming if you have the right tools in place. But it also can’t be done haphazardly.

The first phase, the evaluation phase, does require some manual work to develop a plan and establish a baseline. This is the time to analyze the health of your data and to get an overview of the quality of your data. How many records are duplicates? Where does your data come from? How is it being modified and used? Which field values are most important? Evaluating your data like this will give you a realistic picture and empower you with the ability to determine if previous practices were less than ideal when it comes to the quality of the data.

The cleaning phase is where real change happens. There are several deduping apps for Salesforce, but according to users, the easiest to use is Cloudingo. A user of three years, Drew Holman, says this about Cloudingo: “We have built many filters on our Account and Contact objects to identify records that are duplicates. Once identified, we spot check the duplicates and then trigger automation to begin merging all records according to our merge rules.” Using a cleaning tool with automation and scheduling features makes the whole process enormously quicker and easier.


9. Salesforce is handling it.

Fiction: Salesforce already has deduping capabilities with the Duplicate Management tool. I don’t need anything else.

Fact: Salesforce’s native deduping tool isn’t really a deduping tool. It only prevents duplicate records. It does not find duplicates already existing in your org nor does it allow you to define how duplicates should be merged. Further it lacks many of the other data management features of a good deduplication application. Prevention is one piece of the puzzle, but the most important piece (and the one that sees the biggest payoff) is eliminating duplicates that already exist in your org. This cannot be done in Salesforce alone.


10. I have data.com. I’m good.

Fiction: I use Data.com and it dedupes my Salesforce data.

Fact: Data.com is not a deduplication application. Data.com’s core mission is to provide subscribers with new data. When users access records from Data.com those records contain a key that links it back to Data.com. As users run queries and import more data, Data.com prevents the import of records that have already been imported FROM Data.com based on the key. Instead those records are updated. But, Data.com does NOT compare its own data to your existing data, or to data that comes from any other sources.


11. I already cleaned my data once.

Fiction: Last year I successfully deduped my Salesforce org. Now I don’t have to worry about duplicates anymore.

Fact: All your hard work will go to waste if you aren’t continually maintaining and monitoring your data. Even if cleaning is executed flawlessly, it is not a “one and done” type of situation. As your business grows, so does your data. You must monitor the multiple data entry channels to ensure that duplicates aren’t being created in the process. (Install the free app DupeCatcher to block future dupes.) Further, existing data is not static and has a natural rate of decay. Records get modified and grow stale. You need protocols in place and a schedule to frequently clean records.


Data is the lifeblood of any business. And only clean data is useful data. Regardless of how many records you have, dirty data will harm rather than help your business.

Do you know the quality of your Salesforce data? Within minutes see how many duplicate records are in your org by starting a free Cloudingo trial. (No credit card needed!)

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