Spring Cleaning: The Data Edition

GUEST-BLOG-ICONToday’s blog post is written by Mary Alice Dutkanicz, Data Migration Manager, Patron Technology.

It’s finally spring!  You’ve finished washing the windows, deep-cleaning the oven, and putting your winter coats into storage, and now it’s time to tackle the task you’ve been dreading the most: your data maintenance.

Without a proper plan in place, maintaining your database can be a daunting task.  Rather than sweeping this under the rug for another year, let’s take a look at three practical solutions to make these tasks less cumbersome.

The best place to start is by looking at how data is currently being entered into the system.  Is your Box Office part-timer entering addresses in the same format as your Development intern?  If you don’t already have standards set in place, you should create a style guide for entering data consistently into the system.  This will make next year’s spring cleaning a breeze!

Another easy cleanup item is to cross-check your mailing list with the NCOA (National Change of Address) database.  Throughout the year, your patrons will report any changes in their home or business address with the U.S. Postal Service.  This information goes into a database which is made available to licensed mail houses and mail service providers.  You should regularly schedule a time to submit your mailing list to your preferred mail house or list processing service to run an NCOA update.  (If you don’t have a preferred mail house, we would recommend starting your search with <www.listcleanup.com> or <www.trgarts.com>.)  If you don’t keep up with these changes, you might be wasting precious postage on returned mail.  As an added bonus, going through this process will help your staff identify duplicate accounts.

What duplicates, you say?  Like dust bunnies under the couch, we all know they exist.  The third and final item you should regularly address are your duplicate account records.  Your annual data cleanup is a great opportunity to identify those duplicate accounts and take the time to merge them.  If not performed regularly, your database will suffer from inaccurate or incomplete data, and identifying and merging those duplicate records will become an increasingly arduous task.  In addition to taking preventative measures (such as training your staff to be diligent about checking for existing records before creating a new account for a patron), it’s essential to schedule at least one annual deduplication.

So in summary – here’s your Spring Cleaning checklist:

  1. Create a Data Entry Style Guide (and make sure your staff is using it!)
  2. Send your mailing list out for an NCOA update
  3. Schedule time to review and merge duplicate accounts

Once you’ve tackled these three tasks, your database will be clean as a whistle!

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