To the Moon and Back: Audit Data Collection Regularly (Part 4 of 5 Data Quality Survival Tips Series)

April 14, 2016 Adam Gilbert

Apollo moon landing image with astronaut standing next to American flag

I admit it—my secret passions are astronomy and space travel. Don’t judge.

I watched Star Trek: The Next Generation. I stole my Parent’s National Geographic Magazines whenever they had articles about black holes, quarks, and dark matter. I geeked out whenever there was a shuttle launch.

It has been fascinating to me to see how much our technology has progressed in just the last 50 years. In 1969, we shot living humans into space. They traveled 230,000 miles through a complete vacuum, landing successfully on the moon, explored for over two hours and were brought safely home again.

The computing power of the navigation computer that got them there and back (designed by MIT and built by Raytheon) was more basic than our modern washing machines. It had around 64K of memory and ran at 0.043 MHz.

At that power, an iPhone 6 could guide 120 million Apollo rockets at the same time! It’s hard to believe we still haven’t mastered time travel or at least Star Trek transporting technology.

Verify that your data collection systems are go—regularly

With all these advancements in technology, many people fall into a false sense of security that nothing major can go wrong with the data collection or tagging technologies on your site. After all, these technologies are much more powerful than the computer designed for the first moon-landing and there are teams of experts that QA everything before your code is pushed to production, right?

After any code is launched on your site, best practice dictates that you perform a follow-up audit to ensure everything is in place during the launch, but the work doesn’t stop there. The people who do stop here are often the people that find themselves updating their resume after the site crashes the day before Black Friday.

No matter how rock solid your implementation plan is, and even if you have audited your site post-launch, the only way to verify everything is still in place and working properly is to continually audit your digital implementations—regularly—throughout your development cycle and in your live site.

How are you auditing your data?

If you’re thinking: “Well, we already audit our data!” Then let me pose this question: how are you auditing it?

Many companies throw countless hours and resources into auditing and validating their data collection processes and usually end up doing a lot of spot checking before they can even begin analyzing their collected digital data.

“We have 40 or 50 developers dedicated to the website and we roll code twice a week. [Before ObservePoint], we didn’t have an easy process to validate page tagging on such a frequent basis. I needed to hand check new or altered pages with each roll-out, which could easily lead to missed errors in the tags.” —Tim Munsell, Lead Web Analyst at DaveRamsey.com

Does this sound familiar?

Implement and auditing strategy

Automated data quality assurance solutions help manage implementation changes effectively and efficiently so you can get back to analyzing with the assurance that you are providing accurate data to your organization.

ObservePoint’s automated Data Quality Assurance solution  recommends these beginning guidelines for tag auditing:

  1. Audit frequently during the development process — Audit multiple times during any large-scale deployment effort. This instills data collection best practices throughout your company. Share the results with developers and project managers when appropriate.
  2. Audit often during quality assurance and testing phases — Closely monitor the data being passed to your analytical and other systems (i.e. optimization systems) after your development project has passed into your QA environment.
  3. Audit immediately following deployment to confirm data is being collected as planned — Confirm data collection has successfully migrated from the development and staging environments to the production environment. When problems are identified in this phase, act quickly to correct them. Assign resources to post-deployment efforts tasked with ensuring data collection is correct.
  4. Audit the pages with your most critical paths and content on a high-frequency basis — Changes often occur without your knowledge. Identifying and understanding these changes as they occur can prevent long periods of inaccurate data collection and ensure that your most critical user data is being collected accurately.

Are you finished now? Not quite.

After you implement this auditing strategy, there are still many ways that problems can be introduced to your tagging implementations. Scheduling regular site audits ensures that the validation of your data collection processes becomes part of your organization’s digital DNA.

Start with daily and weekly audits to detect inaccuracies.

Most organizations continually update their websites. To keep up with the change, you should be testing early and often. Daily and weekly audits detect potentially detrimental tagging anomalies on your critical pages. For highly effective “difference” audits, only audit pages that have changed. Simply supply ObservePoint a list of changed URLs to confirm they are tagged properly.

Perform monthly and quarterly comprehensive discovery audits to validate baseline data quality.

Monthly and quarterly discovery audits confirm data collection is occurring as planned, identifying discrepancies so they can be corrected quickly and efficiently. Larger audits help identify systemic problems such as bad code versions and data leakage patterns.

Mission Complete

Technological advancements and implementations can be great, but they still need to be monitored and tested regularly for functionality. Regular site audits promote visibility into data corruption and system failures, that can then be corrected and the data collection processes can be validated.

What if Apollo 11 had been launched and ground control did not have a plan for monitoring their systems for functionality throughout the mission?

Chances are, Apollo 11 would not have made it to the moon and back.

The deployment of your data collection processes is not considered complete until all aspects of the tagging implementations are deemed functional in all stages of development and within the live site. Auditing these processes regularly within your organization ensures you are collecting accurate data, secure enough to launch your strategies into space and to bring them back home to your business objectives.

 

About the Author

Adam Gilbert

Adam Gilbert has been in Digital Marketing for the past ten years, eight of which he spent at Adobe as a Senior Customer Success Manager working with Fortune 100 companies. He has worked with accounts in all verticals including Hi-Tech, Travel & Leisure, Retail, and Financial Services. Adam now manages the Partner Program at ObservePoint as the Senior Partner Success Manager. Personally, he loves getting out into nature with his family and can regularly be found hiking the many trails in Utah. He uses his passion for the outdoors to run two websites for wilderness survival courses and hiking trails.

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