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The Importance of Data Quality and Auditing: Five Questions with Jordan Story, Marketing Analyst at Saint Leo University
In this segment of “Five Questions with…” we talk with Jordan Story, a Marketing Analyst at Saint Leo University about the auditing project and its importance….
You headed up a big data auditing project using the Rapid Insight Veera product. Can you explain what the goal of the project was?
My goal was really data integrity and accuracy. As I was playing with the data I realized that we had a lot of inconsistencies between our systems which could have a huge impact on our reporting, the conclusions that we start making and at the end of the year in the analysis we were doing, and a lot of the decisions that we were making were all based on this data.
Pretty much we wanted to ensure that the decisions we were making were based off of accurate data.
Were you surprised by your initial results when you first started the audit?
Definitely. I knew that there were some errors when I was in the data but I had no idea the extent of the inconsistencies that I found. It actually pushed me to start auditing even more data. I realized if there were that many errors in what little data I was looking at, then who knew what was in the other data where errors existed.
So I started small with only a few data points and it grew into a much bigger project. I started looking at other things like our statuses and contact information and birthdates. It expanded into way more than I had initially planned.
What do you see as the biggest data quality issue for universities and colleges?
Using multiple student information systems and the challenges and the inconsistencies that can come from that. When data is living in multiple places ensuring the accuracy can be really challenging and time consuming, especially if the systems are not integrated.
So once we integrated our systems it definitely cut down on our conflicting data. But right now our data is only moving from one system to the other, it is not a two way integration yet so we are still facing the challenges of that.
Multiple systems are always challenging but if you don’t have any integration running between the systems it can make it an even bigger challenge.
What tips would you have for someone looking to audit their data?
Prioritize what’s the most important data first. Then identify the data that you believe has the highest probability of being inaccurate. Once you start and realize how many errors there are you are going to want to audit everything but by coming at it from those two priorities (importance of data, probability of errors) you will get the most benefit.
When I started the auditing projects, I made up priorities. I started with test scores and GPAs first because I knew they had a lot of errors but more so because of our reporting needs. Financial aid was another area that needed to be a priority for us as well because we wanted to make sure we are not over-rewarding or under-rewarding our students.
Will you be implementing any new procedures as a result of your data audit?
We changed a lot of our existing processes and implemented new ones. We reorganized where some of our data lives to make it easier for our operations team. There was a realization that this could cut down on a lot of the manual entry errors we had. We also started documenting and tracking some of our data differently. During the audit we became aware that we were overriding a lot of our existing data with new data which made it somewhat impossible to look at retrospective data. That became a big challenge and we realized we needed to start collecting more data than we were and saving the old data.
We also changed other things around- how we were inputting our data, where we were putting it, what we were collecting and things like that.
Jordan Story is a Marketing Analyst at Saint Leo University in Florida. One of her initial points of focus when she came on board at Saint Leo was to research the quality of the data being used for the Undergraduate Admissions office. The University utilizes both Colleague by Ellucian and Salesforce for their student information system data.