“Data normalization” is a phrase that leaves a blank stare on most peoples faces.  Here is a secret:  it is really simple.

Here is the inside scoop:  Technology people have a secret club, complete with handshake and everything.  It’s a club that we don’t want outsiders in.  So we create these long phrases that make peoples eyes glass over.  Why?  Because if everyone understood what we do, then we wouldn’t make the big bucks.   Being a recovering technologist, I’m on a continually journey to lose my geek speak. So get ready, here is the skinny on Data Normalization

First, understand that any organization that uses a CRM,  Applicant Tracking System or database of any sort will lose significant productivity if you don’t have a data normalization plan.   It is important.

Now for data normalization in a nutshell.  Look at the following list of company names.

Container Company
Container Co
Container Co.
The Container Company
The Container Co
The Container Co.
Container Company, The
Container Co, The
Container Co., The
Container Company Incorporated
Container Company Inc.
The Container Company Incorporated
The Container Company Inc
The Container Company Inc.
Container Company Incorporated, The
Container Company Inc, The
Container Company Inc., The
Container Co Inc, The
Container Co. Inc, The
Container Co. Inc., The
Container Co Inc., The

Did you notice that this is the same company?  If you don’t have a “DATA PLAN” this is what the inside of your database looks like.  Why?

I’m going to pick on recruiting:  Impatient, type-A personalities that all want to do things their own way.  Put 10 in an office and they are all going to follow there own path and your database will look like the above.

Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Does your database include a large percentage of duplicates (over 20%)?
  • When you search for a company, are their multiple entries, with notes scattered across many duplicates?
  • Does your CRM allow you to enter in company names in any format you choose?
  • Have you ever had 2 people in your company working with the same company and NOT knowing because they were saving notes under different company records?

If you answered YES to any of the above, you have “data nightmare”

How you can avoid a data nightmare

  1. Create a “data plan”.   A  Data Plan consists of a set of executive decisions which controls how data will be treated.  This can be as simple as you will always use “Inc” instead of spelling out “Incorporated” when entering company names.
  2. Educate your team about your Data Plan and data entry guidelines
  3. Post your data entry guidelines
  4. Enforce your data entry guidelines with internal policies.  How?  You don’t follow policy, you don’t get your commissions.  Try it, it works!
  5. Enforce your data entry guidelines with technology.  The BEST way to do this is if your CRM vendor allows you to automatically enforce how data is entered
  6. Force external programs that communicate with your CRM to follow YOUR Data Plan.  For example, Broadlook Technologies Profiler product has the ability to choose a data normalization schema.


If you follow my tips, you can avoid having a data nightmare.

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