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The Decision Factor offers insightful comments and observations on analytics—from views on new technology approaches and market dynamics to the latest industry trends driving demand for faster, smarter information analysis. This blog contains personal views, thoughts, and opinions from SAP employees, mentors, and friends working in the area of analytics. It’s not endorsed by SAP nor does it constitute an official communication of SAP.

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Did You Wash Your Hands? How about Your Data?

The simple, yet often-forgotten, act of hand-washing. We’ve all heard that it’s one of the best ways of preventing colds and staying well in winter. It’s not hard to do, and we all know we should do it—but how often do we?

In a nationwide poll published by the New York Times and conducted by Harris Interactive, 1,013 adults were interviewed about their hand washing habits. Observers were then sent into public restrooms to see what actually happened. In the poll, 91 percent of adults claimed that they washed their hands after using a public restroom, but of the 6,336 adults whose behavior were observed, only 82 percent actually did so. Ewwwwwww.

According to the Center for Disease Control, the simple act of hand washing is the single most important means of preventing the spread of viral and bacterial infections. I would argue the same goes for data.

The simple act of data cleansing is the single most important means of preventing bad decisions, inefficient processes, regulatory fines, etc.

Just like germs can spread easily from one person to another—and have wide-reaching effects—so can bad data, as it migrates from one system to the next. So, by embedding and forcing good data hygiene, you prevent errors that affect the speed and accuracy of business decisions and process.

Six Quick Rules for Hand and Data Hygiene

Hand Hygiene

  • Always wash your hands after using the bathroom, changing diapers, cleaning up after your pets, or handling money
  • Wash your hands when they’re dirty
  • Always wash your hands before eating
  • Don’t cough or sneeze into your hands
  • Refrain from putting your fingers in your eyes, nose, or mouth
  • Avoid touching people and surfaces with unclean hands

Data Hygiene

  • Always wash your data after or during data entry, before you run a report, moving data in or out of the data warehouse, when updating master data, etc.
  • Wash your data when it’s dirty
  • Always wash your data before consuming
  • Don’t cough or sneeze unclean data onto other people
  • Refrain from spreading your dirty data to multiple areas within your organization
  • Avoid touching anything with unclean data

It’s amazing how similar the two are, yes? So practice good data hygiene and keep your business healthy all year long.

In my next blog post, I’ll cover how you can actually go about implementing these rules.