Listen as VP of Data Strategy, Kim Snyder outlines the questions you need to be asking within your organization to begin conducting a proper data inventory.
Conducting a workflow inventory is a first step in data management practices.
Do you know where information lives in your department or organization or how it moves through your organization or who accesses it?
Answering those questions can be quite a task for an entire organization, so if you're just beginning, it's best to get started in a department. Think of all information as having a basic life cycle. This applies to electronic data such as records in a database as well as spreadsheet files, and also applies to paper files.
In a lot of cases the same information exists in both formats, understanding where your data lives often involves having conversations with those closest to it. That includes people doing data collection or entry as well as those who rely on the information to get their work done.
Let's start with data collection, that answers the question "how do we first receive the data?", "how is it collected", "does it come by way of a website, an intake form, a sign up sheet, or is it downloaded from another source?"
What happens once that data is collected? Is it initially reviewed or checked for accuracy? Is it entered into a system and where is that information stored? Is it in a program, a spreadsheet, a database file, is it filed away, how do people access that information once your organization has it?
When we think about access it's also important to consider data security. Are you collecting and storing personal identifying information such as name, address, phone, birth date, social security, and do you need to limit access to just certain staff?
Is the information used in reports? If so, who generates those reports? Can information be downloaded? Is it prepared for use in another system?
Finally, how long is the information stored? Do you have data disposal policies? Is there a point at which information outlives its business purpose for your organization and it makes more sense to securely dispose of it?
The workflow inventory process may need to be repeated in different departments and in some cases multiple times for different programs. The information gained provides a foundation for understanding what data you collect, how you use it, and where vulnerabilities may exist.