Another Monday, another opportunity to learn. This time, we’re exploring the data inventory track a bit further. In the first post of this quarter, we talked about the “why” behind an organization’s data strategy. Today, we dig deeper into the initial step of the “how.” In everyday practice, our main concern as consultants is to start documenting and mapping. If your agency is not doing that, thank them for their services and find someone who does. With data sources and volumes proliferating at mind-boggling speeds, setting in place a decent structure is a necessity (not a luxury) if you don’t want to lose the game against your competitors (who are already making strides forward).

“Only when you start taking a detailed inventory of all your data sources do you realize how much information you’re actually collecting.”


Some of the obvious data sources are systems like a organization’s CRM (customer relationship management platform), ERP (enterprise resource planning platform), CDP (customer data platform), marketing automation system, HRIS (human resources information system) and – of course – your everyday collaboration software like Office 365, Slack or Gsuite. Sure, some organizations also have their on-prem (on premises) databases or still run local software to power legacy systems. The point is: you can’t only document “cloud” or “on prem” sources, you can’t stop at the border of your own function (be it IT, marketing, sales), you can’t even close your eyes to shadow software (software not officially implemented by IT). You need to come up with a plan and an agenda that states what you want to get out of it.

“Conducting a data inventory or information stock across divisions requires coordination, oversight, and initiative.”

Unfortunately, for many organizations, developing a data inventory is a very manual process that will need relatively “independent” champions who receive a mandate to touch upon every existing data source across the organization. Not getting management support may easily nip a data inventory initiative in the bud. Increasingly, (semi-)automatic software is finding its way into the industry. That being said, the software we have seen usually still requires some manual intervention in “making visible” the different systems of record and “hooking them up” to the data scanning software. After that, the software is able to “map” different objects (even if named differently) across the systems in use (think of your marketing outreach and your CRM not qualifying customers the same way for example).

Automation is a wonderful tool in our toolbox. It does however still require some intervention from skilled data architects who can “oversee” the process and who can spot mistakes in case they occur (and they will occur, trust me on that). Architects will also use the information to decide on which data model or which type of data infrastructure will best suit the organization’s needs. An important (and positive) side-effect of conducting a data inventory is that it will also increase awareness for data governance (what are you doing with the data collected and how does data flow throughout – and beyond – the organization) and security (not unimportant given the increasing number of attacks on SMBs).

Are you still confused or would you just like a partner that will guide you in your data inventory, reach out, a first chat doesn’t cost a thing and could help you decide whether a partner-led track would benefit your organization.