Let\u2019s face it, nobody wants to hear about risk and problems.\u00a0 But it\u2019s only when they are ignored that they get really dangerous.\u00a0 So let\u2019s take a little tour through your CRM\u2019s data to understand the risks that live in the dark corners of the system.\u00a0\nThe good news is that most of the system\u2019s data is not dangerous, and the better news is that if you manage the system well you can be vaccinated against the most important problems.\u00a0\u00a0\nThe data that will cost you\nThe dirty little secret of IT is that data is never free, even if you are able to obtain it for free.\u00a0 IOW, all data will cost you.\u00a0 Problem is, you rarely know how much.\u00a0 Data almost always comes with externalities, initially invisible costs that become important over the long run.\u00a0 The clearest example of this is email, where any number of defendants can tell you \u201cmore is not always better.\u201d\u00a0\nWhenever you\u2019re evaluating a new data source, quantify the 3 or 5 year TCO of the data.\u00a0 For example, in a CRM system a Lead might cost $1 or $100 or more per record to obtain.\u00a0 Cleansing, deduping, and updating that Lead might cost you another $5 a month, but if you don\u2019t do that work the Lead\u2019s value goes to less than $0.\u00a0 Why?\u00a0 Because users don\u2019t know the data is rubbish, they depend on it\u2019s being correct, and they end up wasting time.\u00a0 The externality here?\u00a0 System credibility gets diminished as users no longer trust any of the data and executives think the reports are garbage.\u00a0\n[Related: What price CRM data quality?]\u00a0\nNobody can afford to be perfectionistic with data quality.\u00a0 But you ignore data quality at your professional peril.\u00a0\nBest practices:\n\nDon\u2019t add new data sources to a CRM until you\u2019ve characterized their inherent data quality, cost of ownership, and long-run value.\nUnderstand that data maintenance is a budget line-item that doesn\u2019t go away until the data does.\u00a0 It\u2019s just like the dentist says, \u201conly floss the teeth you want to keep.\u201d\nPrune data records that are obsolete \u2014 but that is usually calibrated in years.\u00a0 This means you have to develop policy and governance around each table in the system, and an expunging\/archiving process that is documented, reliable, and funded.\u00a0 You\u2019re probably going to need a data steward.\n\nThe data that could have saved your butt\nIt never ceases to amaze me how few CRM systems have adequate backup, audit trail, archiving, and expunging processes.\u00a0 To be adequate means \u201cgood enough to support you in a legal or regulatory enforcement action.\u201d\u00a0 Even if your business is lucky enough to be in an unregulated industry, law suits can come from a lot of different angles\u2026and when they do come, the things you need to be able to prove are typically years in the past.\u00a0\nThink your backups are just fine?\u00a0 Check out this video about what actually happened to Pixar.\u00a0\nSo, what are the key data to maintain for later discovery?\n\nWrongful termination:\u00a0 user login history, system administration audit trail, Attachments, Contact\/Account\/Opportunity\/Contract\/Activity audit trails, etc.\nImproper sales tactics:\u00a0 Opportunity history, call history, case history, attachments.\nIntellectual Property Theft:\u00a0 Lead, Contact, Account, Opportunity, Quote, Contract, Case, Attachment and Activity records; report run history; data download history; user login history\nFTC \/ Spamming suits:\u00a0 Lead, Contact, Activity, Campaign, and email blaster records.\nProduct Liability:\u00a0 Opportunity, Quote, Pricebook, Case, Attachment, and Activity records\nInvestor suits:\u00a0 Opportunity, Forecast, Case, and Attachment records\u00a0\n\nBest practices:\n\nCreate a written backup, audit trail, archival, and expunging policy for each table in the system.\u00a0 Make sure you take into account the system\u2019s internal \u201cdata horizon\u201d for each relevant table, so you capture data before it is auto-deleted. Review the policy document with your company\u2019s attorney, and make sure they understand that the system contains company and customer emails (unless you\u2019ve explicitly excluded that from the system). In the interests of data provenance, your backup\/archive media should be write-once.\nHave a budgetary line item included your annual funding exercise\u2026and make sure the process actually does get funded.\u00a0\nThe execution of that policy should be a measured MBO on one or more person\u2019s job description.\u00a0\u00a0\n\nThe data that can kill your project\nWhen developing a spec for a project or an Agile Sprint, the reflex is to focus on features and functionality.\u00a0 The problem comes when you ignore the invisible F\u2014the foundation, which can be rotten.\u00a0\u00a0\n[Related: CRM backups or audit trails? Yes, please]\u00a0\nWhat\u2019s going to kill you?\u00a0 Here are some examples:\u00a0 \n\nAlways:\u00a0 data quality and meaning.\u00a0 Will dupes mess up your code or processes?\u00a0 If your project\u2019s logic depends heavily on filtering and grouping, are the field values accurate and consistent? \u00a0Do different departments ascribe different meanings or criteria to pick-list values?\u00a0 If so \u2013 and this is very often the case \u2013 are you planning to code around the variances?\nWith integrated systems:\u00a0 Accounts, Opportunities, and Contracts.\u00a0 Almost without exception, Accounts (aka \u201cCompanies\u201d or \u201cCustomers\u201d) are the most problematic.\u00a0 It\u2019s amazing how difficult and expensive it is to get a solid Customer Master.\u00a0 What will happen to your project schedule if you can\u2019t depend upon a clean, meaningful Account table?\nWith hardware and SaaS systems (such as the phone, call director, or external application):\u00a0 every one of the tables they touch in the CRM.\u00a0 These external systems are inherently loosely coupled and may even be asynchronous.\u00a0 If there\u2019s any flakiness in your data (like, \u201cViet Nam\u201d vs \u201cVietnam\u201d vs \u201cVIET NAM\u201d) or unpredictability in their data flows (such as partial records or occasional dupes) your project is going to spend some very painful time in detecting and troubleshooting issues.\u00a0 I\u2019ve seen this kind of issue totally dominate a project, even though it was never even contemplated when the SOW was written.\nWith configure, price, quote, accounting, billing, and contract applications (even when \u201cnative\u201d):\u00a0 the CRM price book.\u00a0 This is one of the smallest tables in the CRM system, typically with only a few thousand entries.\u00a0 But just getting all the right people to agree on product lines, product names, price points, discounting schemes,\u00a0 international prices, bundles, and bills of materials (BOMs) can take you longer than all the technical implementation work.\u00a0 Even after they agree in principle, a bunch of people have to sign off in agreement.\u00a0 This trivial little table causes non-trivial delays.\u00a0\n\nBest practices:\n\nIdentify the data dependencies for your project before you commit to anything.\u00a0 Identify the three data problems that could do the most damage to your estimates, and build some mitigation strategies into your project plan.\u00a0 Data issues can easily double the cost and time of any deliverable.\nMake sure that there is a solid owner for fixing data problems and identifying what\u2019s the \u201cright answer.\u201d\u00a0 Typically, this will be a non-technical person on the business side.\u00a0 Make sure that that person\u2019s boss has assigned the tasks to that person, and it\u2019s a measured MBO (rather than some sort of \u201cnights and weekends\u201d task).\nPut in disclaimer verbiage in the project\/task definition indicating that (1) the task schedule\/budget is contingent upon data being correct, complete, and meaningful, (2) unresolved data issues are the obligation of the client organization(s) to fix, and (3) unresolved data issues will result in at least a day-by-day slip and possible budgetary overages.\u00a0\n\nData issues are often the long pole in the tent, the ultimate constraint that makes budgets and schedules unachievable.\u00a0 So make sure to shine a light on that pole before you even start work on the project.