What is data management?

Data management is the process of capturing, storing, formatting, maintaining and retaining data. Protection also plays a vital role in effective data management. As cybersecurity risks continue to grow post-pandemic, organisations have to be able to ensure the data they hold is safe.

This is important from a compliance perspective but also in terms of brand confidence. Your customers, employees, partners and suppliers all need to be able to trust that their data is safe with you.

Managed well, the data companies hold can be used very effectively externally, for example data-driven marketing and hyper personalisation. It can also be used internally to trigger operational processes and provide analytics to help with decision-making and forecasting.

“In business, data is usually associated with customers, prospects, employees, providers, deals, accounts, competitors, and finances. When an organization effectively manages data, they gain insights that drive business decisions.” HubSpot

While you should put an accountable person in charge of your organisation’s data management, anyone working with data has a responsibility to ensure it’s well managed.

If you’re new to the topic, get started with our beginner’s guide to data management, ‘From Data to Insight to Action’ — download your free copy, available now.

Why is data management important?

Effective data management is important because if data isn’t accurate, it isn’t useful.

Poor quality, inaccurate data can impact all areas of a business. Think ineffective marketing, lost sales opportunities, poor service delivery and inefficient operations — all the things business leaders and their teams work tirelessly every day to try and fix.

The way you manage your data is also important because of data governance policies. These policies exist to ensure businesses remain compliant with legal data protection requirements and they hinge on your organisation managing its data responsibly.

“Think of your governance standards as your standard operating procedures as it pertains to data management. It determines what actions can be taken, by whom, and when for all things data.” HubSpot

The global standard for legal data protection is the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) For those operating within areas covered by GDPR, it requires that you document the lawful basis for processing a person’s data. It also requires that you adhere to requests for a copy of all the personal data held about them or deleting it altogether, if asked to.

The cost of not remaining compliant can be a big fine, and loss of reputation, for your business. As you can imagine, these costs scale with the size of your business and your level of non-compliance.

Learn more about GDPR settings in HubSpot (what’s the latest and what do they mean?)

Data management at the enterprise level

While effective data management is built on a series of core principles (see ‘Core Data Management Principles’ below), the way a business manages its data and the importance it puts on this will vary depending on its size and the data management systems it’s using.Enterprise-level organisations in particular will want to define their data management practices quickly, if for no other reason than the risks around its use are much higher.

  • They typically have huge volumes of data in their databases.
  • Enterprise teams are usually much bigger, increasing the risk of human error when managing data day to day.
  • Global marketing campaigns can be much more costly and deliver poor ROI if the data driving them is incorrect.
  • Higher-profile companies can be more of a target for cybercriminals.
  • Bigger teams are typically more vulnerable to cyber attacks such as phishing.
  • The repercussions for a data breach on the enterprise level can be huge.

To solve these challenges, many data management solutions offer products with capabilities ideally suited to the enterprise level. HubSpot’s partitioning function is a great option for organisations looking to manage large-scale databases. We’ll talk more about HubSpot later.

Partitioning data to only show specific data sets to specific people boosts the user experience of internal teams working with the data by preventing them getting overwhelmed with irrelevant data. It also helps you as a company to remain compliant with data laws. Learn more about HubSpot’s content partitioning and how it can help you to manage assets in your Enterprise-level CRM.

Core data management principles

A number of core principles underpin effective data management. To find out what these are, we caught up with one of BabelQuest’s HubSpot CRM platform consultants, Hannah Fisher. If you’re new to the topic, you can also look at these as clear examples of data management done right:

1. Well-scoped data architecture

“The first step to functional data management is ensuring the data schema supports the requirements of the data strategy”, Hannah reveals. A data schema defines:
  • What information should be collected
  • The format this data should be in (e.g. text, number, date) 
  • The relationships between this data and other data in the database

“Each of the data points outlined in your data schema will be used to store the information that allows you to utilise, segment, track, and report on your database so it really is the foundation of your data strategy!”

2. Clearly defined data journeys

Once you’ve outlined what information you’d like to hold in your database with a data schema, the next step is to map out the journey this data is going to take through your business.


“As well as considering all the different possible entry points data can be pulled into your database — manual input, import, integration — it’s important to map out how data moves through your business”, Hannah explains “From Marketing to Sales, Sales to Service and then back from Service to Marketing, how does your data move? Ensure closed-loop, flywheel data journeys that break down siloed databases and work harder for you.”

3. Clear data management accountability

While data management is everyone’s responsibility, it’s advisable to have a dedicated data administrator or administration team who oversees routine data management ensuring data quality, security and compliance.

“Often, businesses assign data records to a specific owner/account manager and relationally to a specific team within the business. This helps with holding people accountable for managing the data they are working with”, Hannah says. But accountability doesn’t stop there. It  also extends to the data management system you’re using and its capabilities. 

“For example, being able to keep track of changes to and deletion of any data you hold is important. So is restricting who has permission to delete data and using a system which records version history of data values. This is a game-changer when addressing internal accountability for data deletion and changes.” (More on data management tools later on.)

Learn more from Hannah about the core principles underpinning effective data management.

Benefits of investing in data management

Hopefully by now you can see the importance of data management and what effective data management looks like.

Before we move on to how you and your organisation can actually get to grips with data management, we thought we’d run through the biggest benefits of investing in effective data management practices and getting this right for your company.

A clearer understanding of all your customers

Focusing on your highest-value contacts’ data as a business priority can certainly reveal low hanging fruit — for example, you could target it with programmable emails to create hyper-personalised nurture sequences — but don’t forget about your other contacts, too.

  • Why are your lowest-value contacts actually your lowest-value contacts?
  • Could you better engage them to turn them into higher-value contacts? 
  • What can all your contact data tell you about the journeys your buyers go on?
  • Could you use it to refine your buyer personas?
  • Could Sales use it to have more meaningful conversations with prospects?
  • Can it help you improve the accuracy of your cost to acquire estimates?
  • How much is it costing you to support/deliver aftercare to your customers?

The list goes on, with applications across all customer-facing functions (and many behind-the-scenes teams, too). When it comes down to it, the better you understand your customers, the better you can serve them. Solid data management closes that gap.

A clear picture of where to market (and how)

The most effective marketing strategies hone in the channels and platforms that best engage the target buyer, at the expense of those that don’t. Rather than trying to market everywhere at once (and who has the budget for that, these days?) this hyper-specific approach uses your understanding of your customers and the buyer’s journey to deliver the best return on your marketing investment (ROMI)

Data plays a vital role in understanding which channels to invest in, giving you objective information and valuable insights into how you can reach and engage your audience.

Joining the dots between Sales, Marketing, and Service

We’ve written lots before about the importance of sales and marketing alignment, as well as HubSpot’s flywheel model. (Stop thinking about the process as a funnel, people!)

Buyer’s journeys are complex, especially so for B2B buyers. Dozens of content pieces are typically devoured. Buying cycles can last months (sometimes years). The journey might shift from online to offline and back again. And a decision often comes down to a committee.

How much of this journey can you track using your current processes and systems?

  • Can you confidently say who is reading your emails?
  • Who is responding to your calls?
  • Who is watching your demos?
  • Does Marketing know how to qualify a lead, and how many marketing-qualified leads (MQLs) they have generated?
  • Does Sales know when to reach out to a prospect and when to wait?
  • Has your customer service team got a unified, single-pane-of-glass view of a customer’s interactions (and why they’re calling/messaging?)

The commercial applications for this kind of visibility speak for themselves and it’s only possible with effective data management processes (and the technology underpinning them).

Data management best practices

To keep your data accurate and your CRM useful, your contacts need to be consistently validated. We’ve written about how to clean your data before, but in reality, this is only one part of effective data management. 

What other steps should you follow and how can you successfully carry them out?

Create a data management dashboard 

A data management dashboard is a tool you can build out to have clear oversight of the health of your data. 

The first step will be to highlight all the key data points which are mandatory for your records to hold a value in and build out reports to collate the records with a gap in these data points.

This might be records with:

  • No legal basis for processing the data noted
  • Missing phone numbers
  • No internal owner / account manager assigned to them
  • A free mail email address provided
  • That no longer meet your data retention policy

With so much data available at your fingertips, how can you be sure the information you’re collecting isn’t redundant? Learn all about choosing the right data categories for your needs.

How to create a data hygiene dashboard

A data hygiene dashboard is one way of keeping on top of your CRM housekeeping. Set up correctly, it provides your marketing/data management team with immediate insights into how your HubSpot portal itself is performing — and where it could use a tidy. In this guide, we run through which reports are a must-have and how they’ll help you to keep your data clean — with screenshots taken from an example dashboard in our test portal. 

Investigating data gaps 

Once you’ve built out your data management dashboard, set monthly tasks for your data administrator to review the records highlighted as having data gaps and investigate why this is. This will allow you to ‘close the gaps’ in most instances.

For example, if records being created via a certain source are all consistently missing information, update the data capture form to include mandatory fields.

If records assigned to one specific member of staff are all consistently missing information, holding them accountable will, hopefully, encourage them to rectify this behaviour.

Discover how to clean your CRM data in seven simple steps

Deduplicate data using AI

Most CRM systems - including HubSpot - will use cookie tracking or a unique identifier to automatically match up data to the relevant record and avoid duplications from being created. For contact records this is usually the email address and from company records this is usually the domain name.

HubSpot’s duplication management tool automatically calculates possible data duplication by comparing names, email addresses, IP countries, phone numbers, postcodes and company names.

It is also possible to use the tool to manually cross reference your database using other properties, inclusive of any custom built fields. As part of routine data management, set a recurring task for your data administrator to review any possible duplications highlighted each month.

Did you know…

HubSpot has a de-duplication tool, which uses AI to match up records that look similar and make it easy for you to merge them together. Say, for example, there are two contacts in your database with the same first and last name but they have slightly different email addresses. In this case, you could remove the address that bounces and combine the two records. 

 

Using automation to format and clean your data

The ‘Format Data’ Action feature in HubSpot workflows makes it easy for you to keep a clean CRM and gives you more control over the formatting of your data.

For example, you can use this action to capitalise contact or company names, or calculate values based on properties. Data is formatted into values, which can then be copied into single-line or multi-line text properties in your HubSpot portal or added to an external Google spreadsheet.

And as a backup, HubSpot’s health AI tool collates records into an easy to action list in your database is they have one or more of the following formatting issues:

  • Missing or unexpected capitalisation
  • Unexpected spacing or punctuation
  • Fewer characters than expected
  • First and last name are the same
  • First and last name may be swapped
  • Contains text not commonly recognised as Name
  • Includes common placeholder text
  • Contains unexpected number
  • Contains unexpected URL or domain
  • First and last name may be combined

Data quality automation doesn't just improve the data inside your HubSpot account. If you’re using integrations, that cleaned data can flow into all of your other apps as well, giving your team the high-quality data they need to do their jobs in all their apps - breaking down those silos!

As with duplication reviews, set a recurring task for your data administrator to review any possible data formatting issues highlighted in both the workflow errors and the data health tool each month as part of your routine data management.

Data automation has applications across your customer-facing functions, too. Learn more about it and how you could use it in this article.

Data validation process

Alongside internal tasks and AI automation, lean on the people in your database to help with your routine data management.

Build out a data validation form containing all the data points you hold on your contacts that you’d like them to verify. Send an email out to your database linking them to this form at set periods, every 12 months for example.

Finally, use automation to date stamp every time a record is verified by the contact so you have clear oversight in your database of the last time this was done.

This not only helps to ensure your data is accurate but also keeps your contacts up-to-date with what information you are holding on their record, allowing them to reconfirm they are happy for you to still process that data and ensuring your business remains keeping your data GDPR compliant.

Free data management courses


Learn from this data management certification

Whether you’re new to data management or you’d like to brush up on your skills, HubSpot’s free Academy courses have a lot to offer.

If you haven’t heard of the HubSpot Academy, it’s HubSpot’s free training platform. The Academy is packed with courses and certifications, many of which have become the gold-standard for inbound marketing skills and related fields — including data management.

Business Analytics Lesson: Collecting & Managing Meaningful Business Data

In HubSpot’s own words:

“Effectively collecting and managing data is a critical skill that every company needs to grow. The sooner you start to think about data management, the easier it becomes to make more informed business decisions. In this lesson, you'll learn how to clean and organize your business data and build custom properties that scale with your reporting needs.”

The course is made up of four videos and lasts approximately 35 minutes. Discover:

  • how to define an object and describe how it relates to CRM
  • how to explain the role custom properties play in effective data management and reporting
  • how to clean your data using CRM management best practices

Click here for a more detailed description of the lesson, an introduction to the HubSpot professors running the lesson (hi, Kyle Jepson!), and, of course, access to the lesson.

For more information on collecting, analysing, and drawing actionable insights from your company data, get your copy of our ebook, ‘From Data to Insight to Action’.

9 useful data management tools

As you’d expect, the market is full of tools, systems and software to help you manage your data better. Data management solutions exist for businesses of all sizes, so whether you’re an SME or a global enterprise, there’s a data management system designed for you.

Top tip — if you’re a large-scale business with a high volume of data or complex data management requirements, keep an eye out for mentions of master data management software (DMD), storage, and integration services when considering potential solutions.

What is master data management software (DMD)?

Master Data Management (MDM) is a methodology for ensuring that the organisation’s shared data ( or ‘master data’) is consistent and accurate.

Because enterprise organisations tend to have so much more master data than other businesses, MDM becomes much more important as a form of effective data management.

We call the software that supports MDM master data management software and you’ll recognise it because it typically includes solutions that enable data consolidation, cleansing, accessibility, verification, and organisation.

Popular master data management software includes: 

Storage management software explained 

Gartner defines storage management software as “the sum of all the segments and all the tools needed to manage capacity, performance and availability of data stored on disks, tapes and optical devices, as well as the networking devices that the data may pass through”.

In everyday terms, this kind of software helps you to manage your data storage capacity cost-effectively.

Did you know… Storage management comes in four flavours: cold storage, block storage, cloud file storage, and hybrid cloud storage.


You may recognise these storage management software providers:

A beginner’s guide to integration software 

Data works best when it’s integrated. An integrated system makes data accessible. It helps to keep data clean. It prevents data silos and duplication. And when your data’s integrated, you’ll get so much more out of it. Integration software makes all this possible.

If you recognise these challenges, it’s possible the following integration software could help:

Considering a new CRM solution? ‘The SME’s Guide to Choosing, Migrating and Rolling out a New CRM’ will help you to get started — download it free, now.

The #1 CRM for growing businesses

HubSpot’s reputation as the number-one CRM for growing businesses hasn’t come from nowhere. The HubSpot CRM includes four standard objects: contacts, companies, deals, and tickets, with each object representing a different type of relationship or process.

Over the years, the platform has gone to great lengths to position itself as a fully integrated business growth platform with data-sharing capabilities that extend across all your customer-facing functions (and many back-office teams, too — hello again, Operations Hub). In other words, your whole business can make use of your valuable contact record data.

Related read: HubSpot Earns Multiple Customer Review Awards, Including #2 Best Global Seller for 2022 by G2

As you can imagine, having read this far into the topic, for organisations moving onto the platform (or integrating it with their existing systems) this is truly transformative, creating new synergies, unlocking potential and maximising the value of everything your company does.

To cut to the chase, you — and your data — are in safe hands with HubSpot.

How exactly is the platform set up to simplify data management and help you get the most out of your data?

From scoping and implementation to training, onboarding and so much more, learn all about CRMs in this dedicated page

How HubSpot simplifies effective data management

No more duplicate properties

If you work with or manage data, the chances are you’ve wrestled with duplicate properties before. You’ve added a contact, someone else has added the same contact, perhaps the contact has added themselves… Times that by a hundred contacts and the next thing you know, the CRM is a mess.

“This simple mistake [duplicate properties] can throw off segmentation strategies, send out incorrect email messaging, assign leads to the wrong sales owners, and throw off reporting, just to name a few outcomes of this mistake.” HubSpot

Using HubSpot, you can create an ‘import template’ for use by your employees. With such a template in place, any CSV imported in HubSpot must adhere to its formatting conventions, with the column header corresponding to a property within HubSpot.

“As an admin, you can create and distribute a CSV template for your employees to use when importing information into HubSpot,” HubSpot writes. “With this solution, the column headers of the template will already match with existing properties in your portal, and your employees should never feel the need to create new properties in your HubSpot portal.”

If you think this would help, check out an example from HubSpot of an import sheet.

Minimise missing contact record information

Missing contact information or incomplete contact records are one of the most common data management challenges faced by organisations today. HubSpot helps you to nip this in the bud straight away by making it possible for admins to set up the fields that are seen when creating a record.

“Once those settings are saved, anyone who clicks Contacts > Create Contact will see those fields in their screen. The stars next to each field will indicate which fields are required in order to successfully create the contact,” HubSpot explains.

This is a great way of managing your data, especially as the company scales and the number of users creating forms increases. Data management loves consistency.

Keep deal records up to date

By their very nature, deal records move. (At least, you want them to!) But tracking that progression often relies on the salespeople involved going in and updating the record manually. This can be a lot to ask of an already busy team with quotas to hit. Our head of revenue, Eric Murphy, once described salespeople as being gripped by the ‘tyranny of the immediate’. They live in the moment. As such, little tasks like this slip through the radar.

HubSpot solves this by making it possible for admins to change pipeline settings in their portals. “By customizing the deal stage properties in their pipeline(s), anyone who tries to move a record to a different deal stage will be greeted by a pop-up asking them to update a deal property before they can successfully move the deal,” HubSpot explains.

This helps you to keep your deal records (as well as your revenue forecasting) up to date.

Control how many users (and which) can make changes

Back to Hannah, one our HubSpot CRM platform consultants, for this one, because she says it best

“You might know this feeling all too well: your HubSpot portal has been around for a while, and while it was organised and functional when you first set it up, over time it’s started to become an unwieldy mess. You’ve had team members come and go, functionality has changed, and your portal is no longer fit for purpose.”

Too many cooks spoil the broth, as they say, and one wrong change in the back end can often have repercussions spanning the length of your portal.

HubSpot’s solution is to define user permissions for employees who work in the portal.

Some permissions you may consider changing for certain users:

  • Import access
  • Export access
  • Workflows 
  • Assign View, Edit, or Publish Access to Marketing Tools
  • Deals

“HubSpot’s solutions can help prevent messy portal issues from happening in the first place. They’re relatively straightforward to set up, and if you’d like some extra support, our Expert Practices team can help get you started today.”

Would you like a clearer idea of what requirements your new CRM needs to deliver? Download our free CRM scoping template, available now.

Scoping Your CRM Requirements

After completing this template you can provide internal stakeholders and external partners with one document containing only the essential information to understand and scope the CRM project.

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