Starting 2013 Off Right: Data Cleanup Lessons

A little over two years ago, I began what was once the unthinkable: I became a Mac guy again. After more than a decade of exclusive PC use, I became fed up with Microsoft’s products and terms of service. I made the jump.

However, buying a Mac and completely weaning myself from my PC are not one and the same. In fact, as expected, it has been a transition more than a clean break. That is, I didn’t follow Jerry Seinfeld’s Band-Aid advice.

A few legacy apps like Microsoft Access and my admittedly long-in-the-tooth accounting system forced me to straddle the fence for a few years. However, as Windows XP nears its decommission date, I am going into 2013 with the intent of being Microsoft-free.

To do this, I needed to purchase a new accounting program. By way of background, for the last ten years a “mature” accounting system called MYOB. It wasn’t the sexiest application, but it got the job done.

As I exported the data from MYOB to Quickbooks (for the Mac), I noticed that my data management habits weren’t exactly perfect over the past decade. (Nothing major, but a few things annoyed me in my quest for data perfection.) In a few cases, I had duplicate vendor records. Some of my customer master information was incomplete.

What to do? I spent some time in Excel doing some “winter data cleaning.” I considered the following questions:

  • What better time to cleanse this data than now? (I’ve said many times that new system implementations represent opportune times to clean things up.)
  • Why not purge records vendors and customers with which I have had no contact in the last five years? (For instance, I no longer pay the same electric and cable companies that I did while living in New York and New Jersey.)
  • Why not start life with Quickbooks as cleanly as possible?

I had no one else to blame. “Simon, Inc.” is a very small shop and I do all of my own bookkeeping. Still, the way that I do my books has slightly changed over the last decade.

Simon Says: Be Your Own Chief Data Officer

I’ve written before on this site about the role of the chief data officer (CDO). It was high time that I took my own advice. While this small business example might lack the nuance of a large organization, I’d argue that the same principle applies. It’s my data and I alone take responsibility for it. Why not make it as clean as possible before migrating to a new system?

In fact, I’m going to make this an annual occurrence. Cleanse what I need, purge what I don’t, and review it all.

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Category: Information Management
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