I grew up in a family of men who built/fixed things and women who sewed and baked (not to make gender stereotypes – just describing the specific people in my world). The concept of precision was engrained in my head from an early age. Not measuring or following the pattern just wasn’t something that was acceptable and the consequences were often stressed. I didn’t get very far with building, fixing or sewing, but the baking stuck with me and the lessons on details have been much appreciated by my family and friends.
The attention to detail and precision that is so valued by my family comes to play in database work on a daily basis. I have to measure twice (asking lots of questions, digging into the database, creating a plan and verifying the plan with the organization that I’m serving) and cut once (I don’t want to change the data more than that).
When you reach the conclusion that you need to clean up your database, start by building what I like to call the “Data Triage” plan. Write down all of the known issues in your database. Indicate what they affect (mailing lists, reports, etc.). Rank which issues are the hardest to work around. Research how to clean the issues up and build a strategic plan to begin making changes.
When you build your plan, if you’re not able to resolve the largest issues easily, you may actually want to start with smaller issues that you can resolve. Your goal is to build a plan that fully addresses the issues and allows you to take steps in a positive direction. By building and following a well thought out plan, your data clean up will be much more successful.