Data Integrity Audits – 5 Reasons Why You Need Them

From a supply chain point-of-view, there are many reasons why master data and transactional data becomes… less reliable.  With data discrepancies and corrupted data, the output of our transactions, reports, and queries can cost your supply chain business.  You can mitigate risks and costs by first knowing how these discrepancies occur.  With this new, or reinforced, knowledge, you can take action.


Have you ever heard someone say “the software system sucks”?  But, in my years of investigation and troubleshooting, software does not deserve all the blame.  Yes, I believe that all software systems have flaws & bugs.  Some software systems have more flaws than others.  It is important to learn how to report these issues to the vendor instead of grumbling that “the software sucks”.  Otherwise, the flaw will not get resolved.    There are many companies and individuals who buy a new software system hoping the software will solve all of their problems.  But, let us be realistic, there is no “holy grail” of software systems (yes – including top tier software systems).


Even those environments that heavily use barcoding and scanning, there are users who manually enters a value during a transactional function or within queries or reporting.  Human error does happen.  However, some input entry errors can be more painful, than others, to fix (for IT or operations).  In addition to typing a value incorrectly, there are other ways for discrepancies.  An example is when a user accidently hits a key before scanning a barcode.  This can cause unpredictable results with any random key being hit.  I have even seen spaces preceding the barcode scan.  These types of data corruption can be difficult to see on GUI queries, database queries, and reports.


 Related to the above Input Entry Errors, scanning a barcode can also produce errors.  For example, if a user scans the wrong barcode.  Let’s say the user is prompted to scan the quantity but accidently scans the case number.  This can cause a big discrepancy and can easily be found through validation data integrity reports.  But, let us look at another example.  Scanning a barcode that is damaged can produce less obvious problems.  A bad scan can cause erratic characters to show up in the database that may not be visible via the GUI (graphical user interface).  This type of corrupt data requires IT’s intervention to go directly into the database to correct the problem.  Your IT team should work with operations to determine what actions need to be taken (remove case or rename case).  The manual data fix can be messy if multiple data tables are impacted.


Have you ever heard of “red tape”?  Does your organization have idiotic levels of lock-down that prevents or hinders resolving issues?  Let us build Policies & Procedures, and communicate them, to allow impacted staff a way to get the data corrected.  An example to share… Let us say that the Sourcing department enters in dimensions of a unit.  These dimensions are interfaced into the ERP system and then down to the WMS system.  And, issues arrive in the warehouse resulting from the dimensions being enter excluding the packaging.  Is there a procedure to report these types of problem?  Are there people uselessly trying to change the data in the WMS or ERP, only to be overwritten again by the Sourcing system?  Or, is the procedure to resolve these discrepancies not clearly communicated to those who actually work with the output dimensions and product?  There are some organizations that have become so silo’d in their operational structure, that departments stop communicating to each other.  This lack of communication, or “protective” job security, can cause problems impacting the entire business.


As software system users like to blame the software, the programmers and analysis blame the users.  This is not always just.  I experienced a situation where, after basic research, was convinced the user did something wrong.  However, after intensive weeks of research, I found “the needle in the haystack”.  Putting that aside, users can make some really stupid mistakes, careless mistakes, or malicious actions that will corrupt data and transactions.  For the guy that maliciously sabotaged the transaction, fire him — I have no tolerance for vindictive and malicious people. But, as a disclaimer, talk to your HR department first.  Another example of transaction user errors comes from lack of training.  I used to work in an environment that brought in seasonal workers.  The number transactional and data corruption cases escalated.  Sometimes it is individuals who need additional training, and sometimes it is full departments that lacked training.  And, we also have careless or stupid mistakes.  Let’s face it, we are all human, and mistakes do happen.  Some individuals will need remediation, others will only have a careless moment and does not reoccur.

Now that we have identified causes of data corruptions and discrepancy, it is now time for you to take action by implementing regular data integrity audits and reports. 

Let Beacon Grace help!  Beacon Grace, LLC is a technology and business support consulting services firm helping supply chain centers navigate the successful integration of software solutions into their operations and overall business strategies.  Beacon Grace can help you identify inefficiencies and discrepancies, within your organization, and develop real solutions.  We invite you to visit or call us at 240-329-9400