8 Proven Ways to Maintain an Up-to-Date Data Dictionary

up-to-data data dictionary

Eloqua users know how important it is to maintain an up-to-date data dictionary. But as the marketing operations field becomes more complex, this maintenance demands a lot of time and attention. This raises a question: what is the best way to maintain an up-to-date data dictionary without letting it completely monopolize your time?

Here’s what eight marketing operations professionals have to say.

1. Leverage Collaborative, Cloud-Based Tools

In my journey as a Fractional Chief Marketing Officer, having worked extensively with start-ups and established companies to steer their digital transformation and brand strategy, keeping an up-to-date data dictionary has been pivotal.

One of the practices I’ve championed involves leveraging collaborative, cloud-based tools to maintain a live, accessible data dictionary. This practice ensures that any changes or additions to the data model are instantly available to all stakeholders, fostering a culture of transparency and continuous improvement. For example, while guiding a SaaS company through a rebranding process, we utilized a shared Google Sheet for our data dictionary, which allowed various teams, from product development to marketing, to have real-time access to the latest data definitions, maintaining alignment and efficiency across departments.

Additionally, fostering a culture of documentation within teams has been key. Encouraging every team member to contribute to and review the data dictionary regularly not only keeps the document comprehensive and current but also engenders a sense of ownership and accountability. In one instance, by implementing a weekly review session of our data dictionary as part of our project management cycle, we were able to catch discrepancies early and adjust our marketing strategies in a timely manner.

This iterative process ensured that our data practices remained robust, relevant, and closely aligned with our evolving business goals, significantly impacting our overall marketing effectiveness and strategic decision-making.

2. Schedule Regular Data Ecosystem Audits

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Cole Greer, Vice President, Easyfish Marketing

In my leadership role at Easyfish Marketing, ensuring our data dictionary remains up-to-date has been a cornerstone of our ability to deliver precise and effective digital marketing strategies for our clients. From this experience, one impactful practice we’ve embraced is regular, scheduled audits of our data ecosystem. These audits involve cross-functional teams that compare the current operating environment against our data dictionary, identifying any emerging data points, shifts in consumer behavior, or technological advancements that necessitate updates. For instance, when we noticed a trend in increased mobile leads for a client in the home services industry, we quickly adjusted our data dictionary to include new metrics specific to mobile engagement and conversion rates, ensuring our strategies remained targeted and relevant.

Moreover, promoting a culture of continuous feedback among our teams has been instrumental in keeping our data dictionary agile. We encourage all team members, from data analysts to marketing strategists, to contribute insights and observations from their day-to-day operations that may signal the need for updates to our data dictionary. This democratized approach led to the identification of a new customer segment, previously grouped under a broad category, for one of our retail clients. By refining our data dictionary to include this new customer segment, along with tailored engagement metrics, we were able to create highly specialized marketing campaigns that significantly improved customer acquisition rates for that segment.

Through these practices, we’ve ensured that our data management processes stay dynamic, fostering an environment of continuous improvement and adaptation to the ever-evolving digital marketing landscape.

3. Implement a Data Schema Approval Process

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Jugnu Nagar, SEO Specialist, GREAT Guest Posts

I play a hybrid role in the company and have control of most marketing and development activities that impact reporting. I implemented a process where any change to the data schema requires an approval process with pertinent information. I maintain a dedicated reporting database where I keep definitions updated. The approval process (SP approval workflow) serves as a backup.

4. Assign a Dedicated Data Dictionary Manager

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Finn Wheatley, Executive Consultant of Data & Technology, Xtrium

One way to ensure your data dictionary stays up-to-date is to assign a dedicated team or person to manage it. Creating a straightforward process and schedule for updating the dictionary can also be beneficial. It’s important to involve stakeholders from various departments to ensure all relevant information is included. Utilizing technology tools can also streamline the process and reduce errors. It’s essential to regularly review and refine the data dictionary to ensure it remains an effective resource for your organization.

5. Utilize Social Media for Marketing Terms

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Saneem Ahearn, VP of Marketing, Colorescience

I keep my verbiage up to date by using social media, as well as coworkers. Every once in a while, a marketing video pops up in my social media feed, and with that, new terms also come out. When this happens and I don’t understand the term, I look it up to find the meaning. As for coworkers, I do not shy away from asking them to explain if there is terminology that I have not heard before. We both know that I don’t know everything about marketing, especially since it is ever-changing. With that comes new terms and new learning opportunities!

6. Establish a Recurrent Review Routine

Having a data dictionary that is up-to-date requires garden-like tending; it must be cultivated on an ongoing basis for best results. In my career, I’ve come to realize that consistency and teamwork are paramount. Let me share how I deal with this assignment.

To begin with, I established a recurrent review routine. I mean, the same way you water your plants regularly, I check our data dictionary every quarter to see if there are any changes in terms of structure that we have made to our data or new points that we have introduced. This practice prevents the dictionary from becoming obsolete and enables it to remain a useful source of information for the team.

Collaboration is another cornerstone. I engage stakeholders drawn from different departments in the review process. In this way, I draw on the richness of knowledge and outlook, making certain the data dictionary is full-fledged and correct. It is like having a group of gardeners, each with their own specialization, to take care of the plants.

I also use change management principles. Every time a new data source is added, or when there is any major change, I immediately update the dictionary. This preemptive measure avoids backlog and guarantees that the dictionary is always current.

Last but not least, I have noticed that the availability of a data dictionary and its user-friendliness prompts the team to use it more actively, contributing in this way to its accuracy. The definitions and examples I provide are clear and straightforward, thus allowing anyone in the organization to comprehend easily how they can apply it.

By adhering to these guidelines, I can be sure that the data dictionary is a dynamic document—one which lives and breathes alongside our requirements. It is a core element of our data-driven strategy, allowing us to retain transparency, uniformity, and precision in regard to the decisions we make based on said information.

7. Participate in Educational Webinars

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Lucas Ochoa, Founder & CEO, Automat

What I find effective in keeping my data dictionary updated is to participate in webinars and lunch-and-learn sessions. Many organizations offer free webinars discussing the latest developments in Data Science and AI. I really like these because signing up for a webinar commits me to setting aside time for learning and development. This is very useful for making sure I dedicate time to stay informed.

For instance, if you use cloud database systems like Google BigQuery or AWS RDS in your regular work, attending a webinar by Google or AWS could be beneficial. These webinars often focus on how to use these tools most effectively. I recently joined one—an excellent BigQuery webinar—that was about improving your SQL code to cut costs and reduce the time queries take.

8. Follow Data Science Channels on YouTube

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Precious Abacan, Marketing Director, Softlist

I simply follow data science channels on YouTube. Two Minute Papers is one such channel that does exactly what its name suggests. It uploads two new videos each week, aiming to summarize the key points of a recent research paper, many of which are about AI. Their AI and Deep Learning playlist has a huge number of videos. Following this channel is an excellent way to stay updated on the latest AI research. I’m particularly fond of their ‘OpenAI Plays Hide and Seek’ video, but there are so many great ones, it’s tough to pick a favorite.

Two other channels I really enjoy are StatQuest with Josh Starmer and 3Blue1Brown. What I appreciate about these channels is how they make statistics and machine learning concepts easy to understand and visually engaging, even for those without a lot of background knowledge. While they’re well-known for their beginner courses, they also cover more advanced topics in machine learning.

If your team needs a little more help creating an up-to-date data dictionary and keeping it current, we can provide. Get in touch with us today to up your Eloqua game.

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