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Client & Business Devlopment

Design Your Perfect Data-Fitness Plan

Don’t Treat Your Data Like a Diet

By Erica Curtis and Courtney Kearney, CPSM


Want to get in shape? You’ll need a plan, the right equipment, consistent habits, and a way to track your progress. These are the same four steps our data trainers at CKearney Consulting (CKC) use to keep our clients’ data strong and healthy. What does that mean, practically speaking? There is no one-size-fits-all approach to data fitness—designing the right maintenance program for your data depends on your firm’s strategic goals. Read on for practical insights and examples to help you get your firm’s data into shape.

1: Have a Plan
You wouldn’t just walk into a gym and start randomly picking up weights. Likewise, you wouldn’t just randomly start cleaning your data. You want to make sure you have a plan in place. Two very important things to keep in mind when you’re creating your data fitness plan: First and foremost—always back up your data before you make any changes. Even the most competent of users will make mistakes. Secondly, communicate your plan clearly. Continual buy-in is often lost if no one knows how and why you are entering or maintaining the data.
Sculpt Your Firm’s Fitness Regimen When deciding what data needs conditioning and which reports to run, first define what you’re trying to achieve. Your data fitness plan should go hand in hand with your firm’s strategic plan. When you’ve identified your goals and which data sets will support you in achieving those goals, you can make strategic decisions on how to strengthen and maintain your vital data.

Complete Data Sets
For example, imagine senior leadership is interested in expanding into a new market or location and looking at opportunity data to drive their decision-making. A complete data set is critical, because you don’t want them to make decisions made with only half the information. Focus on populating the necessary fields - —market sector, location, dollars, dates, etc. - .—in every opportunity record and run reports to look for missing data.
Back-up Reports
One of the graphs on your CRM dashboard likely displays all open opportunities. If your firm relies on this data, it’s a good idea to save a report that pulls the same data. If something looks off with your dashboard, you can quickly check it against the report. A user might have accidentally filtered the data on the dashboard, or it might have been an issue with the system. With the back-up report, you can identify the problem and have the right information when you submit the support ticket.
2: Get the Right Equipment
Just like finding the perfect running shoes can help you commit to your morning jog, the right tools can help you stay on track with your data-fitness routine. For example, a program like Microsoft Excel can make cleaning, preparing, and reviewing data more efficient—and a lot less painful. Software integrations are powerful tools to reduce hours of data entry. Pushing data from one system to another to gather all your data into a single source of truth is critical. Similarly, maintenance reports are necessary in your data-fitness journey.
Select the Maintenance Reports for Peak Performance We are often asked which are the best maintenance reports. And our answer is always the same: It depends on your firm’s data needs. Ask yourself, what data is vital to the firm? That is what must be maintained.


Project Data
If your priority is project data, you need to identify the most important fields for users to populate. We recommend those fields be required, but we understand that might not be possible depending on your system and/or process. If you can’t require the data, regularly run reports to look for project records missing that vital information.
Opportunity Pipeline
Opportunities might be your focus, so you have reports to track the status of your pursuits. It’s important to identify old opportunities that are clogging your pipeline. Have any opportunities been static for three months or longer? Have any been a long lead for years? Are they all still valid projects?
You likely have workflows to boost efficiency and effectiveness, and, hopefully, you check in regularly to make sure they’re working. If they’re not, create reports as a checks and balances to ensure everything is firing the way it should. You can do the same for integrations. Running reports to verify that the data is flowing between systems protects your hard work.
3: Be Consistent
Just as consistency is key to staying fit, consistent habits keep your data healthy. As we like to say at CKC, “Data is not a diet!” Scrambling to collect, clean, import, and review data for a big project is stressful. But when data is a lifestyle and you work consistently to maintain it, you can conquer that stress.
Craft the Ideal Cadence for Your Firm Some data maintenance should be performed quarterly, some monthly, some weekly. How often is enough? Determining the right cadence for reviewing data depends on a few factors: your workload and bandwidth, how much data there is to check, and how often you need the data.

Email Addresses If your firm sends out an email campaign every month, quarterly reports looking for missing emails can give you an unmanageable pile of work. Running the report monthly, or even weekly, will help you stay on top of the data maintenance. The right cadence depends on how often you use your email list and how much time you want to spend per week or month populating missing email addresses.
New-Employee Records Say the process to onboard new hires pushes data from HR into your CRM system, but key information is often missing. Run a report to look for empty fields, such as previous project experience or professional designations quarterly. Or, run them more often if you find you are regularly trying to track down missing information for proposals at the last minute.
RÉsumÉ Information Keeping résumés up to date can be a tough task. But some employees are only included on a proposal occasionally. Maybe, for those people, checking their résumés annually is sufficient. For someone who shows up in every proposal, you should check their information quarterly or even monthly. We recommend working with HR to require résumé checks during an employee’s annual reviews or, better yet, tie it to their bonus.
4: Track Your Progress
If you had a goal of doing 50 push-ups, you would not start with the full 50; you would work hard to reach that goal. Keeping track of data status—what you received, what you imported, and on what date—will keep you oriented and on target.
Here are three simple ways to leave yourself breadcrumbs with your data imports.
  1. Include text in a field stating: “Data updated on [date] as part of [XYZ] data project.” The note doesn’t have to be in a text field, just somewhere you can run a report for future tracking.
  2. If you’re manually doing things in your CRM, you can attach your document to your record so you can track what was received and when.
  3. In spreadsheets, include an area for notes and write: “Approved and completed on [date].”
Watch the Vital Signs of Your Firm’s Data Health
Remember that your data-maintenance plan should align with your strategic goals. Your progress tracking should do the same. Reports, analytics, and dashboards can be set up to quickly and easily show whether your data-maintenance efforts are successful and how close you are to your target.

Marketing Data All in One Place
Your goal is for your CRM system to be marketing’s single source of truth. If you’ve been working hard to fill in missing information, set up a dashboard in your CRM that is full of reports looking for empty fields. When the dashboard is empty, you’ll know the data is up to date.
Tracking by Geographic Region
If your strategic objective is to grow your market in a specific area, you must track and tag all your clients, prospects, and pursuits within a region. Once you regionally segment your audience and opportunities, you can help the firm make data-driven decisions on growing in that area. Celebrate your data maintenance efforts and your ability to help progress your firm’s strategic efforts.
Crossing the Finish Line
Having a plan, choosing the right tools, maintaining consistency, and tracking progress are the keys to healthy data. While there is no single template for all data-fitness plans, feel empowered to lace up your sneakers and take the first step. Customize your data maintenance to align with your business goals, harness the power of the data lifestyle, and design your perfect data-fitness plan today.
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99% of this article was generated by human authors. Generative AI was used to brainstorm the article subheaders.
Erica Curtis is the marketing and communications manager at CKearney Consulting. A background in journalism and business communications has honed Erica’s dedication to clear, effective writing and design. She brings a passion for language and storytelling to every project she leads.
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Owner of CKearney Consulting, Courtney Kearney, CPSM leads a firm of approachable data nerds that offers evaluation, implementation, on-call support, and training to maintain and improve firms’ CRM and data systems as well as their proposal automation, data analytics, and so much more. Known for her love of data, Courtney is a thought leader, author, and public speaker. She’s served in SMPS leadership roles locally, regionally, and nationally, including chapter president.
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