Email-redThe principle of temporal depreciation applies to many things in life, like the value of money and biological aging. And it also applies to one of the most discussed topic of the decade – data. Simply put, your data today holds more value than your data tomorrow. Along with the obstacles with Big Data, data decay makes data analytics even more so challenging.

Within data decay, deteriorating client database has been a common challenge for businesses. In a 2001 survey, more than 70% of business employees said they had at least one change to their personal contact information, whether it was a phone number, email, or address. And a more recent study by Hubspot found that the natural degradation of marketing databases can cause a business to lose 1 in every 5 contacts.

The financial losses to data decay are huge. UK businesses reportedly spend $346 million a year sending out promotional mail to incorrect addresses.

There is a number of inevitable reasons to data decay – business contacts change emails for every time they move companies and people change names, commonly due to changes in marital status.

There is no magical solution to eliminate stale data. But there are a few preventative measures businesses can take to extend its value.

Leverage Cloud And Mobile Technology

Manual data entry is archaic. Unfortunately, there are many businesses that still rely on it. The task is arduous and the process is not safe from human error: data is gathered in paper or digital forms and depending on operations, passed to another point of contact who inputs them into spreadsheets, then only to be shared with others. From the time it takes from collection to analysis, analysis to execution, the data has already decayed. Hence, the cloud. Leveraging cloud and mobile technology is crucial in buying you time. It essentially extends the life of your data from beginning to end.

Trim The Data

Another way to stave off decay is to reevaluate what data you are actually gathering. For example, if your business only sends advertising materials through email, you may not need all your clients’ physical addresses. Having smaller amounts of data at the onset will help you declutter when the time comes to clean up your existing data.

Check The Health Of Your Data

Although the causes of data decay are nearly impossible to eliminate, you can be proactive about ensuring the quality of your data. Some software tools enable employees to fill out customized forms with clients. By periodically checking up on your clients’ information when you see them, you can delete your old list and export a new one into Excel or another organizational tool. All data will decay, but by performing a refresher every few weeks or months, you will make future evalautions easier.

Small and medium businesses face a number of inevitable challenges. Because data decay is a perpetual problem with inevitable causes, businesses need to take a proactive role in ensuring their data quality is up to par. By automating entry where possible, limiting data gathering, and performing periodical checkups, your business will gain the competitive edge that healthy data quality provides.