Data Pack-rats: and the Mall of America

Is your philosophy More or Less, or Less is More?

Before I stepped into consulting, I worked in a small office.  There was little shelf space, one cabinet, and a server with a small hard drive.  Everything including tech magazines, software manuals, and files were scrutinized and, if deemed important, some limited real estate was dedicated to its storage.  Same held true for electronic docs.  It was beautiful efficiency and we could quickly summon anything important.

The company was successful and so we moved to a larger office and everything got bigger including physical and digital storage.  We started keeping everything that could be remotely useful “just in case”.  This new system served our needs, more or less, as anything we wanted was there in the office…  but it was all prohibitively tucked away in our vast stores of everything that fell into the category of “this may be important some day”. , as far as storage space is concerned in this analogy, is bigger than the Mall of America.  It has the capacity to store hundreds of data points on every record and millions of records.  It also has a powerful search engine that can rifle through fields, tabs, and records which seems to lend itself to the unwritten policy that if any information may be important some day, then record it – just in case.

The point is to challenge the natural inclination to be a data pack-rat and ask:

  • Is an organization more effective after sub-sub-sub-segmenting data?
  • Is it possible that all of the people who are keying in the data can be impossibly consistent?
  • Has a situation been created where it is needed to run many, many reports?
  • After reviewing these reports, do you understand, more or less, the state of your organization’s finances, pipeline, customer support, or sales?

Consider what the decision making process would be like if this was the situation:

  • Your staff could run a few simple reports that provide reliable, specific metrics that are clear and actionable.
  • You have a report that provides key performance indicators such as how many customers are new, renewed, or lapsed.
  • A report showing how many people came to the last marketing event, and how much did your organization net after expenses.
  • If you are a nonprofit, (yes, thousands of nonprofits use too, it’s not just for businesses!) you may want to know how many volunteer hours did each person work.
  • A report that lists how many high-dollar acknowledgment letters need to send this week?
  • Can you make a simple business rule about who to send your next mailing to based on purchase history and create the mailing list with ease?

When tempted to track an extraordinary amount of data (read minutia) on a minority of records (read inconsistency), consider the alternate path of running your organization with a system that contains essential data across all records that is reliably input.  Imagine being able to run reports that are simple, important, and actionable now.  It may feel that your organization is tracking less information, which is true.  It is also true that with this lower data overhead, fewer input mistakes, shorter learning curve, that your leadership can make decisions based on that information and realize that less will become more.

About the Author: Ray Simon is a Certified Consultant that has worked with businesses as well as non-profit organizations to customize to meet their needs and train staff on best practices.  He can be reached at

21 thoughts on “Data Pack-rats: and the Mall of America

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    We think this is a great use of cloud computing sortawfe! It will ensure that jobs are completed more efficiently and accurately. Thanks for sharing and congratulations on the launch of your sortawfe.

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    the Chinese leadership needs to learn today's politic skills such as giving fancy speeches, social media networking and milking the media and public airways. The old faceless march of yesteryear will not win over supports of the 20 something. The question they need to ask — do they want to be feared or loved? Clearly, they are still going down the "feared" route.

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