April is National Records and Information Management month! We sat down with one of our data experts, Anne Goto, to weigh in.
Days are getting longer, the birds are singing, and there’s a hint of warmth in the air – it’s almost spring! It’s the time of year that we want to throw open the windows and air the place out. As you start making a list of spring cleaning projects, don’t neglect your data.
April is National Records & Information Management Month. It was founded to emphasize the importance of good data quality and record-keeping practices. Although we should be diligent about data management practices all year long, NRIMM is a good time to take stock.
For an expert viewpoint on the topic, we asked MDR’s Data Products Manager, Anne Goto, to share some insight and guidelines for good data management practices.
Q: What is a good starting point for evaluating business data management practices?
A: Every organization relies on data to drive their business, but not everyone understands that data they use. A good way to begin is to establish a baseline understanding of which processes are currently in place. Here are some questions that can serve as a framework for establishing a new policy or revising your existing one, if necessary:
- Do you have a recognized data management policy?
- What are your record-keeping practices?
- Do you track the sources of your data?
- Do you review all your data or just focus on new data?
- How do you correct inaccuracies?
- Do you have rules in place for removing or inactivating records?
- How do you prevent duplication of records?
Q: What are some common pitfalls of data management to avoid?
A: Most of the problems I’ve encountered fall under these categories:
- Focusing only on new data. All data requires attention, categorization, and some level of maintenance. Don’t just add new records, remember to keep your existing records updated and current.
- Fear of removing or inactivating data. Data ages quickly. Holding onto dated or obsolete data can cause confusion. It’s important to have a policy for treating records that are outdated or incorrect to avoid (sometimes expensive) errors.
- Data overlay. When data variables differ, how do you know what data to keep? Setting up guidelines can minimize this problem.
- Not understanding all of your data sources. It’s important to know the origin of the information you keep on file, whether it is confidential, how it can be used, and whether it is leased or owned.
- Proper data maintenance requires eliminating duplicate records in a way that ensures that the entire history of the record is kept intact.
Q: Is there any one step that can help ensure the success of a data management plan?
A: To be effective, every data management plan requires ownership and accountability. For that reason, establishing data governance is imperative. In smaller operations, this can be one or two people. In larger organizations, since many departments may interact with data on a regular basis, a cross-departmental team may make more sense. It’s also important to allow stakeholders to have a voice in assessing or implementing new data practices.
We recently held a webinar on smart data management, click here watch the recording.
Q: Do you have any tips for handling confidential data?
A: Data is a highly valuable asset that has to be maintained with security in mind. Some best practices include:
- Minimize the number of people working with the data to only the minimum number of required personnel.
- Use Data Encryption and Secure FTP when transferring data.
- Keep application and security software upgraded.
- Have well-established data backup and recovery plans.
- Require strong password protocols for access to all applications. We recommend 2-step password authentication.
- Establish clear ownership for Data security and Data Governance.
Q: Data and cybersecurity breaches have been in the news for the last couple of years. Can you share some steps MDR takes to ensure data is secure?
A: Data is at the heart of all MDR’s products and services. As a result, we take data security very seriously. For all of our cloud-based, customer-facing applications, we use Secure Sign-on Protocols which ensure user passwords are never accessible to anyone. We are also in the process of converting to using SFTP for data transfer when customers want to receive data this way. Finally, we are able to encrypt our data at any time to prevent others from accessing it.
Our thanks to Anne for sharing her expertise on an important, timely topic!
Do you have any other questions about record-keeping and data management for Anne or others at MDR? We’ll be happy to answer them! Simply add your question in the comment space below, call us at 800-333-8802, or send us an email.