14 Things You Should Know about Stale Data and Its Impact on Your Business Intelligence Efforts

HowOldIsThisDataStale data can be valuable for spotting trends and tracking progress, but when it comes to making on-the-spot decisions, it’s of little use. In today’s fast-paced business environment, decision makers need access to real-time data.

Read on to understand why data becomes stale, discover the warnings signs stale data is holding you back, and learn what you can do about it.

4 Reasons Data Becomes Stale

From talking with business leaders of small to medium-sized companies, we’ve identified some of the most common reasons data becomes stale.

  1. Reports are built from extracts or dumps of data.
    Reports built on extracted or dumped data are stale moments after they are created- because whether the data is coming from IT or you’re pulling it directly from applications yourself, it’s only as current as the last time it was extracted or dumped.
  2. You’re reporting from a data warehouse or replicated reporting database.
    When your data comes from a data warehouse or replicated reporting database and not a real-time system, it’s only as current as the last time it was refreshed. Often, the refresh period is set at once per week, or worse yet, once per month.
  3. Data is collected manually.
    Manually collected data is not only subject to human error, the process is also incredibly time consuming- especially if you’re gathering data from multiple sources. As a result, the “end of the month hustle” becomes standard operating procedure, and data is consistently stale.
  4. Reporting has “always been done this way.”
    When we ask potential customers about their reporting schedule, they often tell us that reports about the previous month are due by the 15th of the current month. That’s just how it’s “always been done.” In the past, that type of reporting schedule was acceptable and provided the “freshest” data technology could deliver. But today, businesses can leverage solutions that give them real-time data, which means reports are much more relevant and more likely to be used to improve business processes.

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5 Warning Signs Stale Data is Holding You Back

Is stale data holding you and your leaders back from making critical business decisions quickly and efficiently? Here are five signs it might be.

  1. Your KPIs are no longer relevant.
    You’ve been told time and again, “measure what matters.” The trouble is, your KPIs have changed, but your dashboard isn’t keeping up- the data you’re getting is no longer relevant.
  2. You can’t get your hands on real-time data.
    Slow, infrequent or stale data can be more frustrating than no data at all. If the data you receive is consistently a week or weeks out of date, you run the risk of making bad business decisions. Of course, not every piece of data needs to fresh, but generally speaking, the more timely the data is the more relevant and valuable it is.
  3. Stakeholders have questions you can’t answer.
    From the CFO to your biggest clients, stakeholders are asking you questions about current operations that can’t be answered with stale data. While stale data used to be the status quo, today’s movers and shakers want real-time analytics.
  4. IT is being hit with a barrage of report requests.
    Your IT team (or sole report wizard) is being inundated with so many requests for data and reports they can’t keep up. The highest priority requests tend to get met, but all others fall by the wayside.
  5. You’re stuck in a cycle: Reports lead to more detailed questions, which leads to more reports.
    More than a week after your request, you finally have your report from IT. But, it has revealed something you need to look into further. So, you head back to IT to request another report or more extensive data analysis- and the waiting game beings again.

If any of these warning signs hit home, you’re not alone. In fact, leaders across all industries are asking us, “How do we avoid stale data?” The good news is, it’s easier than you think and it all starts with choosing the right business intelligence solution.

5 Basic Attributes of a BI Solution that Delivers Fresh and Relevant Data

  1. It fits your use case/s
    First and foremost, your BI solution must fit your use case; it must be able to get you the data you need to accomplish what you want.
  2. It provides real-time data.
    It almost goes without saying, but the BI software you choose must be capable of delivering real-time data, right from your database.
  3. It can be leveraged by the non-technical business user.
    If your end users need to jump through hoops with IT to get to the data they need, it’s going to be stale by the time they get it. A self-service tool like Yurbi can be leveraged by business users, and that means everyone has access to real-time information at the very moment they need it.
  4. It’s mobile.
    You need a BI tool that delivers real-time metrics to your phone, tablet, or other mobile device, because from the top down, everyone works on the go these days; your BI solution should too. Plus, consider this: Gartner forecasts that by the end of 2015, over half of mobile BI users will count entirely on their mobile devices for data.1
  5. It supports ad-hoc report building
    Ad-hoc report building gives the user the power to create fresh, relevant reports on the fly. That means users don’t have to wait for IT; they can run their own reports in real-time and even build their own dashboards at a moment’s notice. With Yurbi it’s just click, drag, drop. No technical skills required.Business intelligence (BI) is an indispensable tool for decision makers, but only if the data it delivers is up to date and relevant.

To learn how your organization might benefit from the right business intelligence tool, read our free eBook “The Hidden Cost of Bad Business Intelligence.” If you’re ready to take the next step, the Yurbi Pricing Guide will provide you with everything you need to know to help calculate your BI costs and develop your usage strategy.

1 Forbes, 2013

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