Top 10 Stupid CRM Data Corruption Tricks

CRM data corruption: It's not just for SysAdmins anymore. Check out this list to find out how your users and their policies may be polluting your data.

By David Taber
Tue, December 06, 2011

CIO — In the spirit of David Letterman's occasional feature "Stupid People Tricks," it's time once again for a new list of errors that lead to corrupted CRM records. Past quizzes have focused on SysAdmins and consultants, but now it's time to find out how your users and their business policies can contribute to data pollution.

So here's David Taber-man's newest Top 10 List of Stupid Ways Your Users Can Corrupt Your CRM Data. And yes, I've seen specific examples of every one of these this year.

Number 10: Connect Outside Systems Directly to Your CRM System

Whether it's a Web form, a direct integration adapter, or even a lowly file import, connecting your CRM system directly to an outside data source is an almost guaranteed mess. Either you get duplicate records, bad field updates, or -- for extra credit -- both! Better to use middleware, ETL tools, or internal code to trap the bad updates before they occur.

Number 9: Dedupe Accounts Without Considering External Systems

Everyone knows duplicate records are bad, but it's better to keep them around than to do fallacious merges. In most CRM systems, the account object is the top of the information pyramid. If your CRM system is integrated with anything outside, an account merge will cascade to several objects in the other systems...and they may not be able to comply. Or they pretend to comply, but immediately recreate duplicate objects back in your CRM. Since merges are not automatically reversible, do some real system engineering before you try merging accounts.

Number 8: Create a Lead Every Time

For a variety of reasons, users may insist that a new lead be created every time there's a prospect inquiry. This may be to give proper credit to partners, or show the yield of marketing events, or simply reflect a fear that "they'll never get that form fixed." This practice is a guaranteed dupe generator, frustrating users and almost guaranteeing bogus reports. Just say no: this is what activities, campaigns, and custom objects are designed to avoid.

Number 7: Insist that Leads and Contacts Can't be Deduped

Like Number 8, users will have lots of "good" reasons why leads can't be deduped against contacts. But deduping is a solid requirement -- there is no satisfactory alternative. So fix duplication issues at four levels: semantics, business process, system code, and administrative procedures.

Number 6: Use Lead Sources Instead of Campaigns

Most CRM systems have a lead source field on the lead, contact, and even opportunity objects. These are fine for toy systems, and they're immediately satisfying to the novice user. But they are an abomination because they can't represent the multiple "touches" that are the reality of sales cycles. Furthermore, in too many systems, users are allowed to change the lead source at will. The right path: use campaigns and activities that show the chronology of marketing actions and prospect responses.

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