What is Data Integrity and Why does it Matter?

Reliable data allows for better questions and more insightful answers. But reliable data starts with robust data integrity. What is it and why does it matter?

Data integrity refers to the consistency and accuracy of the data in your organisation. Within the context of a CRM system, maintaining robust data integrity ensures your customer records are current, accurate and free from duplication. The greater the number of errors that exist within a CRM, the less effective it is as a business tool and ROI starts to decline.

Maintaining data integrity ensures all departments has access to the same up-to-date information, allowing for better decision-making and project coordination. It makes it easier to create timely, relevant and personalised interactions between you and your audiences, fostering trust.

Accurate data enables businesses to segment that data to better understand their audiences and create tailored solutions to meet their needs.

Inaccurate data could mean that communications go awry or don’t get through. It could also mean that your personalised customer experience is based on a false understanding of who that customer is. Reliable data helps to get the messages to the right people at the right time. Maintaining data integrity should therefore be a focus for every business.

illustration of a woman sat working with lots of different types of data to maintain data integrity

Defining data integrity in a sales context

The purpose of a CRM system like Microsoft Dynamics 365 is to record all the critical details for every customer. This includes (but is not limited to):

  • Business name
  • Contact names
  • Website
  • Email addresses
  • Phone numbers
  • Business address(es)
  • Market vertical
  • Contact history
  • Purchase history

You might also categorise them by pain points. You could even include personal details that support your relationship with that customer. But if any of that data is inaccurate, the entire entry becomes unreliable.

If emails bounce your ability to communicate has been significantly reduced – especially if the rapport with that contact would make a phone call unlikely.  

Similarly, if your contact has changed position within the company you may have to start building a relationship with someone entirely different. Who, significantly, may not see your product or service as the best option.

Small details can equally have big consequences. A single incorrect digit on a postal or zip code can mean a piece of direct mail never arrives. Or, worse still, the client refuses to pay an invoice because the details are incorrect. Cash is king and when clients refuse to pay because you’ve made mistakes with paperwork, that king is little more than a hostage.

Fundamentally, bad data leads to bad outcomes, resulting in wasted time, effort and lost revenue. On the other hand, strong data integrity strengthens customer relationships and empowers your sellers to maximise the potential of the CRM.

Managing data integrity

The truth is, it’s all too easy for mistakes to be made that reduce data integrity. Especially as often fields are populated manually. Combine that with a fast-paced environment or a team member who doesn’t see the value in maintaining data integrity and your business is on a slippery slope.

Manual errors

If users are inputting data manually, errors will naturally start to creep in. Manually double checking will catch some mistakes but not all, and that is assuming users can be bothered. Data entry in a CRM rarely feels like an important part of the job, right up until it stops working.

To reduce manual errors, automate as much as possible. CRMs like Microsoft Dynamics 365 have integrations allowing data to move seamlessly between tools. It also frees up time. Where integrations aren’t available or manual entry is unavoidable, drop downs, tick boxes and other pre-populated fields can help to offset errors.

Duplicate records

Associated with manual errors are duplicate records. This usually occurs when a name is entered incorrectly, the wrong title is added, or they have an alternative email address. Automation can help to offset this by linking your email tools with your CRM. This can help to reduce duplications, but your CRM should have de-dupe functionality.

Platforms like Dynamics 365 have de-duplication detection rules baked in as standard. This should catch most duplicates, but you should still practice good data discipline to minimise potential errors.

Keeping accurate records

If you’re fortunate enough to have the kind of rapport with your clients that they notify you of internal changes, your data becomes much easier to manage.

However, that won’t always be the case and personnel changes can often catch team members off guard. This is understandable; however, everyone needs to be clear on the procedure when a contact moves on.

  • Confirm who the new point of contact is
  • Double-check the title and spelling
  • Capture email address
  • Capture phone number
  • Confirm if they are operating out of the same office

This information needs to go into the CRM immediately. Both creating a new contact and ensuring it has attached to the business profile as well.

Try to reach out to the new contact early on to understand what their objectives are moving forward. Or, if they’re not yet a client, if their requirements have changed. Establishing this early and giving the business time to pivot as needed will help to retain that opportunity. Because customers don’t always make you aware of a change in circumstances, it’s up to you to keep on top of them. That means making a habit of regularly checking contact details – for example, against email signatures – and having periodic conversations with the customer to ensure all the other information in your records is accurate.

illustration of managing different data sources via a smart device

How to sustain data integrity

Maintaining data integrity is part of a wider philosophy around the free flow of information. It can’t be one person’s responsibility to look after the data the business runs on. It, along with any other aspect of business sustainability, is a shared responsibility.


Data integrity needs to be woven into the fabric of the business. The culture of your business needs to reflect the company’s attitude towards data integrity. If the senior leadership team does not take it seriously then chances are no one else will.

The only way to maintain data integrity is for everyone to understand both the importance and need to proactively manage data. Rather than assuming it can wait or that someone else will do it.

Without a shared ethos around data integrity the CRM can’t work properly. If the CRM isn’t working properly, sales suffer. Make data integrity part of your induction process for new starters and hold regular training sessions to ensure everyone is fully up to speed. Both in terms of the platform and what’s expected of them.

This will also make it easier to spot anyone who is struggling with the CRM or has picked up bad habits.

Audit and clean-up

Task account managers with the job of auditing and cleaning up their accounts in the CRM. Depending on the state of your data integrity, you might need to do this monthly, quarterly or twice a year, but we wouldn’t recommend leaving it any longer than that. Check that the contact details are up-to-date and make sure you’ve acted on any new information that has been sent through. If the account managers are in regular contact with their clients, this information should be in a healthy state.

Consistency is key

Data consistency is an essential component of data management. That means standardising how fields are completed. Full country names rather than abbreviations or phone numbers with the country code or not, etc.

Establish the status quo and enforce it. Have a process in place to fix errors as they arise, whether it’s the person who owns the relationship with the client/contact or the last person who accessed the record.

You can also use your CRM to be specific about formatting, either using drop-down lists for things like regions or countries or insisting that mobile numbers all begin with a country code. Where customers are providing their own data, you can also take extra steps to secure data integrity by sending an email to confirm the information you hold on them is correct. You must be careful here as you can only contact an individual within an organisation about the data you hold for them, not anyone else. To do so could be a data protection breach.

Data integrity matters because people matter

We have established in other articles that people buy from people, and that the more personalised the customer experience, the more valued they feel. Data integrity is critical to personalisation and aids user adoption by making the CRM more reliable and more valuable to sellers. An advanced CRM system, data integrity and user adoption go hand-in-hand – just like the fire triangle, you need all three to create a flame. So, if you are in any doubt as to the integrity of your data, we would strongly advise you to audit and clean-up your CRM and instil a culture of data quality as soon as possible. It’s in everyone’s interests to maximise data integrity, and with new tools and integrations, it doesn’t need to be a labour- or time-intensive task.

If you need help implementing a new data integrity strategy, get in touch.

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Get in touch with us today to learn more about how we help businesses like yours navigate Microsoft Dynamics 365 recovery and deployments.

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