The Surprisingly Complex Life Cycle Of Data [Contributed Blog]

October 4, 2019 - 13 minutes read - Analytics, Contributed Posts

Most people have last heard about life cycles in biology lessons at school when they learned the different stages of development for an organism. Teachers often assign observational tasks to help their students follow the life cycle of the frog or the seed, exploring the evolution between each stage. In the business world, however, life cycles tend to refer to a series of stages through which a product goes from its creation to its retirement or renewal. In that case, each step in the product cycle is determined by the business, using performance analysis, market research, and the introduction of innovative technology. Unlike the biology classes where your teacher explained that no matter how many people you ask for their views on the subject, the tadpole will continue to grow into a frog. For living organisms, the life cycle is entirely outside of your control. 

So far, nothing new. But have you ever considered that there is an actor in the business world that behaves exactly like a living organism? Indeed, the evolution of data in your company follows a similar path that, just like the tadpole, can grow and shape itself outside of your control. The ability to manage data refers to your understanding of the data life cycle and your ability to respond to the transformations of each stage. 

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You can’t just acquire data because you want to

It is your company’s responsibility to obtain data as a way of starting the data life cycle. Data acquisition, however, only occurs when a lead or a customer shares their information with your company. Whether it is part of a transaction process or a newsletter subscription, you need to comply with local privacy practice regulations to legally acquire and use your customers’ data. Indeed, it is indispensable at this stage for businesses to clarify their legal obligations and to inform customers how what will and won’t happen with their data. Ultimately, customers whose data is used without their knowledge or understanding of your practices can claim they have not agreed to your terms. In other words, at this stage, you need to ensure that your acquisition guidelines are legally binding and authorized in your industry sector.

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I need all the data

Clarifying your use of data with your customers and according to the local regulations is only the beginning of your role in data management. The data life cycle principle encourages the acquisition of further data. Indeed, as data is the most valuable resource in your business, it’s only natural to assume that you need to have more of it to guarantee growth. However, data comes in a variety of forms and shapes. Not everything you can collect about your customers and their habits is relevant or valuable to your activities. In fact, unless you define which data you need and how to best collect them, you are likely to waste your time and capital on a large-scale collection campaign that will not benefit your business. Ideally, your strategy goals serve to determine the most useful data to collect as well as the most-effective time-frame and method for the collection. 

Are my data any good?

Here’s the harsh truth of the data world: 85% of the existing data is utterly useless to your business. Indeed, lack of appropriate management and qualitative checks cause a significant drain to organizations. Obsolete, redundant, trivial, and dark data is a considerable burden to companies. It affects not only your abilities to design effective data-driven strategies, but it also strains your storage facilities. While more and more companies are happy to store data that may not be relevant today but might become meaningful tomorrow, too many waste their resources with incorrect and unverified information. Indeed, data analysis can be a time-demanding process that businesses choose to postpone or simplify to save valuable resources. As a result, it’s not uncommon for data-banks to show duplicated entries, missing addresses or contact details, misspelled names, and incorrect customer references. 

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Are you storing your data effectively?

The more data you keep, the more storage space they require. The days of physical server storage, however, are long gone. If you intend to manage your data collection effectively, you need to look for accessible and secure cloud storage services such as Amazon Web Services. For SMEs in need of an integrated storage solution that can exist alongside their digital system, the consideration to migrate to AWS or a similar service is a no brainer. Indeed, Amazon has been developing digital solutions as part of its business model that respond to increasing security concerns and even GDPR requirements. Additionally, for businesses that want to maintain their competitive edge, it’s fair to say that a partner that has made tech innovation its number one priority is the best possible choice. 

What happens if you acquire additional data?

The matter of a dedicated and practical storage solution is a question that businesses have to address regularly. Indeed, the acquisition of additional data is a continual process that carries on as part of everyday activities and operations. As a result, it is crucial to define a set of standardized rules to protect the quality of the existing data-bank. Indeed, the most common setting focuses on data formatting, which refers not only to the different segments of information that a company captures but also the denomination of each segment and its verification process. For instance, if a CRM database segments customers’ identity in 3 categories: title, first names, surname, the future data entries should follow the same rule. Otherwise, additional contacts might be perceived as duplicates, or existing contacts might be added more than once. 

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Oops, my data are not safe

Your data storage facilities should not only extend to adjust to your needs, but it should also ensure that the data owned by the company are secure. Unfortunately, while data security is not a novelty, companies have still a lot of room for improvement. Indeed, in 2019, data breaches increased by over 50% compared to the same time last year, according to Risk Based Security. With almost 90% of breaches being caused by external attacks, it’s fair to say that businesses need to focus on cybercrime protection rather than suspecting their employees. Breaches can have dramatic consequences, not only for the company but also for your customers who are put in a vulnerable position. The AMCA has been forced to file for bankruptcy protection to avoid compensation claims after the breach of over 22 million debtors’ records, for instance. 

Can I sell my data? 

Your data are precious. That’s precisely why if you are to maintain their value, you need to protect them. But, as part of your business activities, you can also consider reselling your data to third parties. Data brokers have a duty to provide dependable, relevant, segmented and secure information. But if you are not willing to sell, you can still monetize your data by opening your digital presence to affiliate marketing strategies, allowing marketers to target your audience. Marketers are always on the lookout for relevant audience groups, which is where effective data management can differentiate your data. Indeed, the ability to create niche, tailored groups determined by demographic information, interests, locations, and even the type of technology used to access the site can be detrimental to buyers and advertisers. 

My customers want their data back

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard of the GDPR policy launched in the EU. GDPR changes the way businesses collect, store, and use customer data in the EU. Indeed, by putting users in control of what happens to their personal data, the EU forces companies to respect their wish for privacy. The GDPR regulation isn’t relevant for US companies, but it is fair to say that greater control over the use of customer data could soon become an international right online. In other words, even if American customers can’t get in touch to demand that you erase their data today, there is a fair chance that they enjoy GDPR-like rights in the near future. As such, companies will have to provide full access, erasal, and notification of their data.

I don’t want my data anymore 

The right to be forgotten is often described as a GDPR advantage. However, businesses all over the world have a duty of care and protection towards their customers’ data. Confidential information that has been collected incorrectly, or without the knowledge of your clients, should be removed from your data-bank. Additionally, when a business shuts down or sells its resources, the disposal of clients’ data becomes a priority. While it might be tempting to press the delete button and hope for the best, companies should focus on professional destruction services to ensure the data can’t be retrieved. Similarly, you can also ask your IT team to proceed to a disk wipe before selling your used laptops. Ideally, companies should ensure total destruction in the process, as they can be held responsibility of breaching confidentiality if the data can be retrieved and used. 

The understanding of the life cycle of data allows businesses to proceed to the acquisition, verification, storage, erasal, use, protection and even monetization of the collected information effectively. Indeed, as data is a growing organism within the business, you have to keep up with its various stages to provide the most suitable and appropriate response.

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