From The Data Stewarding Team at Wilson Allen

With the rising tide of data in our increasingly digital world, professional services firms are in dire need of better data management strategies. Add globalization and greater emphasis on client relationship management, and the need for clean and accurate data from across the client engagement life cycle is even more apparent. After all, you can’t build, nurture, and expand relationships if you’re working with information that’s inaccurate or incomplete. To that end, here are some best practices for maintaining your business and operational data, from the data stewards at Wilson Allen:

Cross-check new contacts and companies

Assign responsibility to someone to cross-check new contacts against those already in your CRM system, especially those that are added automatically through sign-up forms. The entry may duplicate an existing record already in your CRM but with updated company details.

However, rather than just merging the two entries, double-check that you’re preserving the most recent information, particularly related to their subscription status. Otherwise, you may inadvertently dedupe them into an unsubscribe list, marking them as a suppressed contact when they actually want to receive your communications.

Use shared contact information 

When possible, always use the software’s “sharing” tools rather than manually providing contact information. Doing so ensures consistent formatting for fields in your database such as addresses, websites, phone numbers, etc. – and it makes for easier work down the line. By using properly linked and shared data, you minimize the chance of retaining out-of-date or orphaned data (i.e., those that have no business owner).

By using shared information, your contact details are always up to date. When information changes, if you update the record, all of the people who received the shared data will also receive the update. Train your admins to use your system’s data quality features in whatever form it exists – association cleanup, multi-contact merge, transformation tools – to standardize data and complete this task.

Scavenge contact lists when someone leaves

While a somewhat unpopular process in many firms, when someone has announced that they are leaving the firm, it’s in your best interest to double-check their contacts to see if they are the only person that has a relationship with key contacts. If any contact is a client or prospect, make sure someone else in the organization takes ownership of the relationship. This way, someone is responsible for maintaining the relationship and updating the contact info when necessary. Plus, you’ll have fewer orphaned contacts that are not known to anybody and are not being updated, taking up space in your system.

Since some people are not forthcoming with their contact list, there are ways to identify who knows whom in the firm. For example, you can use software to perform automatic scoring of contacts and companies based on their importance to the firm. Then you can develop data management strategies around those rankings. This capability provides the added benefit of enabling business development teams to identify where contacts are engaged and, more importantly, potentially where they are not.

Be smart about building lists

When creating mailing lists from previous campaigns, use searches and filters to avoid taking across “uninterested” contacts. For example, don’t copy the whole event list from 2019. Only take across those who accepted/attended. Data segmentation strategies and tools can help you pinpoint the most relevant people for particular campaigns.

Also, regularly audit your mailing lists, as they may contain duplicates, bounces, or even records with no email addresses. It’s better to have a list of 500 contacts who are all available to mail and have correct details, than a list of 5000 contacts with bad data.

Get your own house in order 

Beyond getting a handle on contact data, adhering to documented data management strategies goes a long way to help firms run more efficiently and effectively. For example, keep your personnel records within your CRM clean, up to date, and linked fully to addresses – including direct dials and job titles. If your firm data is correct, you can be more confident that other data groups are accurate and up to date.

Having an integrated software landscape makes this process much more straightforward, naturally. While many professional services firms focus on integrating time and billing systems (3E, Elite Enterprise, Aderant, and Envision), it helps to have your HR systems integrated to manage the flow of joiners, leavers, and alumni. Integration with these systems can dramatically reduce the burden of data management on already stretched CRM resources and deliver tangible benefits quickly.

Make a plan and stick to it

Maintaining the quality of data requires the development of a data governance framework. Create a data cleaning plan for specific tasks and required intervals. Whether you do this with in-house staff or outsource data governance practices, it helps you focus on what tasks are essential and specific times to complete them. It also helps ensure that you’re not losing sight of less frequent tasks such as archiving data that is no longer required so your data is always clean and ready to serve your business needs.

If the state of world health has resulted in resources who have more time on their hands or are less able to work on their usual tasks, consider training these resources to perform data stewarding duties. Not only will you be helping them gain additional skills, but it will also benefit your firm.

To learn more about how Wilson Allen can support your data quality needs, contact us today.