This phrase may be half a century old, but it’s still just as relevant today - even when you’re using accounting software. If you want your financial reports to be accurate and contain useful, actionable data, you need to ensure that data input is of a high enough quality. When we discuss data quality, we refer to its accuracy, completeness and consistency. This spring, as well as performing your usual spring clean at home, why not take steps to tidy up your accounting data and avoid getting ‘garbage out’?
For small and medium construction companies, checking data quality manually is the route to take. Go through every record in turn – transactions, client records, staff information, and so on. Look for the following:
- If several users are responsible for inputting data into your system, there is always a chance that duplicate records will be stored. Look for these and merge them, being careful to transfer attached files to the amalgamated record before deleting the redundant entry.
- Incomplete data. Identify empty fields and take steps to fill them. It is particularly important that client contact information is filled in as thoroughly as possible. Of course, you won’t be able to fill every field for every database entry, but the more accurate data you have to work with, the more detailed analysis can be.
- Inconsistent or wrongly coded data. Look out for records that are in the wrong format (perhaps a contact’s title is included in the ‘First Name’ field), are spelt incorrectly or have been coded incorrectly. Make sure that each column contains only the types of data you expect it to contain – Booleans, integers, dates, currency values etc. Amending these inconsistencies will make data easier to sort and analyse.
Improving data entry
Also, take the opportunity to evaluate the data entry process at your company. It’s much easier to prevent poor quality data being entered into your database than it is to clean the data at a later date.
Firstly, consider updating which fields require input before the record can be saved. This will prompt staff to note down further information when records are first created – a small inconvenience for them, but one that will significantly improve the completeness of your data.
Secondly, implement a new ‘style guide’ to set standard formatting for your databases. Set out when to use abbreviations, and when to write out words in full – for example, will you shorten county names like Hertfordshire? Where applicable, also spell out which units your staff should use when inputting data – cm, mm or inches?
A style sheet won’t eliminate all inconsistencies, but it will make filters and searches much more effective whilst reducing the time spent tidying up data in the future.
Now that your data is clean and tidy, put it to good use. Use your accounting software to follow your finances closely and analyse every aspect of your business. Integrity Software’s Evolution M lets you build bespoke financial reports with just a few quick clicks. Find out more about report writing in Evolution M and examine the many other features of our construction accounting software.
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