Data Management: Process by which required data is acquired, validated, stored, protected, and processed, and by which its accessibility, reliability, and timeliness are ensured to satisfy the needs of the data users. (

In my previous blogpost, Learn To Love Your Data Dumps, one of the closing points was “Data Management must become part of our vocabularies. We’re all data managers.” Let’s look at 3 benefits.

people on money


One of my workshop students sent an email saying “thank you for making me look good in front of my boss.”

She was writing a grant proposal and had mountains of data that she said were taking 6 hours a day to sort, filter, subtotal, copy, paste, drag, drop … etc. The pivot tables and basic data-parsing techniques from the workshops wiped away 6 hours of hard work, and increased accuracy.

Before the workshops she was getting the work done without the pivot tables. But there was an inquiry into “isn’t there a better way to get at this data?” Not only was there a better way, it was in her grasp, and there was a short learning curve.

She looked genius because a lot of bosses aren’t “numbers people.” Good bosses are often fantastic with building relationships and leadership but, dealing with data is a necessary evil. Such bosses need a superstar data person that they can count on. And guess what? The boss then looks good in front of  HER boss.


Errors will happen no matter what you do. However, the more copy-&-pasting, dragging-&-dropping, the more spreadsheets linked to other spreadsheets and workbooks, they’re all more moving parts that can break. That’s called: a ticking time bomb wrapped in cells and formulas. When it explodes, there can be days of hunting for the nasty formula on one of 20 tabs or hidden columns in a Frankenstein workbook.

When we focus on data management, data quality and users needs, we get clear when Excel is being stretched to fragile limits. Sometimes Excel is not the right tool for the task. When Excel is appropriate, poor use is what takes us to the fragile limits. To avoid those limits, a few tips are:

  • Anticipate the need to troubleshoot WHEN things go wrong. Because they will.
  • Keep data as consolidated as possible.
  • Makes notes in your workbooks detailing the method to the madness.
  • Build alerts.
  • Start asking, “if this explodes how difficult will it be to fix; or, will Humpty Dumpty have fallen off the wall?”

One of my students emailed the elation of locking down her data with Excel’s sheet protection to guard  against accidental deletions by collaborators. Easy thing to do. It’s also a highly responsible thing to do. She learned to take preventative action to minimize the potential for errors. BRAVO!


Data Management includes policies and process as described in Here at the Rock, We Have Data Management Policies. Time and time again, a business suffers from not having policies or processes around their data.

  • If you know that 1 out of 50 new people are likely to become a client, and the average transaction is $2000, that means,
    • 200 business cards in a drawer could be
    • 4 clients and
    • $8000

The business cards are in a drawer because there’s no policy and no data management process for getting the data entered anywhere.

  • Nonprofits that can keep their donor information straight are able to keep in touch with the donors, do follow-up, and create campaigns targeted to donors who haven’t donated in a while.
  • Quick access to answers that’d you’d better have. Example:
    • “How much of your activity benefits this city and how much outside the city?” A potential donor/sponsor/partner who believes in “taking care of home first” wants and answer, and they probably don’t want the answer in 2 weeks after several spreadsheets and handwritten notes have been compiled. And the answer had better be correct or run the risk of looking shady.

Data is all a business is. If the data-sets are jacked up … woe unto thee!

With clean data, clear policies and processes, a business owner can deal in reality, and access granular bits of that reality to fulfill its mission.


The benefits of clean, useful data are what lead to my passion for teaching data management and Excel skills. Teaching has been fun, and it’s shown me that people do want to be empowered to responsibly mange their data and work a lot more efficiently as Data Managers, not as Excel Gurus. I teach live and private workshops here in Chicago, and 1:1 screenshare sessions for anyone anywhere. Please be in touch if you’re interested in expanding your skills or the skills of your team.

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