Sometimes I think mid-market companies consider data integrity to be a “big company,” problem. Having worked at a couple of very big companies, I can confirm that it is at the forefront of most of their business processes. Enterprise organizations have dozens of database administrators, data access administrators, data integration analysts and master data managers, and schedule “data cleanup days”, audit checks on data entry and erasure, and other head-spinning procedures to toe the line on data integrity. And to be fair, to remain compliant, publicly held companies have to invest heavily to keep data accurate.
Are mid-market companies missing the boat on this?
- Securing data– I recently toured a small food company that produced specialized products to high-end grocery stores; for example, for Thanksgiving, they produced special-label pumpkin flavored products, and for Christmas, they produced gingerbread flavored products. The employees who work there are proud of what they make, and were dedicated to the products, so dedicated that they often chipped in to help co-workers with their jobs if the line was running behind. I watched three or four people log in with the same login id to the single workstation that displayed product recipes, so they could help out on the lines. The recipes on the workstation had exact ingredients and amounts, detailed where the ingredients were stored in the warehouse, the suppliers they ordered the ingredients from, how much the ingredients cost, and a myriad of other pieces of intellectual property that were created over a long period of time, and which had rightfully given this company an excellent reputation with consumers. This company was ripe for someone stealing closely held and important data, and they would never know who had done it, when, or exactly what was taken.
- Slippery slope of integrity – Employees at start-ups run 100 miles an hour to jump-start the business, and the management team – often on the road selling, raising money, and determining their next move – let their talented staff figure things out on their own. This is the excitement of a start-up! When the staff is particularly inexperienced in business, or maybe particularly motivated to achieve success, the line on data integrity gets fuzzier. A customer signing up for an online account, and being told in the fine print that their personal data will never be “sold”, will be more than a little concerned and irritated when the data gets into the hands of one of the hundreds of companies specializing in collecting marketing data and creating profiles of millions of consumers across the country because the start-up employees didn’t secure the data, or they grabbed more data off the consumer device than they let on, or they reach a handshake agreement with a sister company to trade information, or a million other mistakes.
- Where is your data? – Don’t think of your data as residing in an ERP or CRM system only. Most companies focus on securing that data, and don’t consider that very valuable data is right in plain sight, and needs just as much attention and security. Take a tip from the very big companies, and put in place data access policies, password protection policies, and acceptable use policies, and run a data audit to find weaknesses in your business processes. Make sure your employees know how important data integrity is!