Maintaining Your Data Inventory: High-Level Tips for Keeping Yours Up to Date

Creating a complete data inventory is one thing – but supporting it over time is another entirely. In this article, we’ll detail how and why organisations should create strong processes to maintain an up-to-date data inventory.  

The Rationale for Maintaining an Up-To-Date Data Inventory 

An organisation should look at its data inventory as a living artefact, not a one-off project. It should be assessed to decide if it is meeting its objectives, it should be updated as the business changes and it should improve over time.  

Organisations that adopt a set-and-forget approach to data inventories will end up with outdated data assets that do not deliver an ROI. Creating a data inventory takes time, and data assets will change over time. So, setting up processes to update, audit and optimise your data inventory is the way to achieve long-term value from it and make sure it delivers the business outcomes you want.  

High-Level Tips for Maintaining an Up-To-Date Data Inventory 

Attach data inventory maintenance to existing processes.  

Maintaining a data inventory is like filing – often seen as a necessary evil.  But there are ways to change it from being a chore to party of everyday business. Much like habit stacking allows people to build new habits by attaching them to existing behaviours, companies can ‘attach’ data inventory maintenance to existing processes to more successfully implement them. We encourage privacy teams to embed data inventory updates into existing processes, as well as established audit routines.  

Regularly redefine data quality. 

Organisational data tends to develop rapidly, and it can be challenging to balance the quality of the data inventory with the quantity of data.  

In this situation, it’s helpful to prioritise relevant data tags within the inventory. Tags provide the key to your data inventory. You can read more about this in our data tagging post, but to summarise, leaders should focus on tagging data sets using high-impact categories that align with business goals and/or risk management priorities at a minimum (including of course security and privacy requirements like retention periods). Organisations can also develop more sophisticated tagging practices that go far beyond legal compliance, to focus on operational efficiency, service delivery, or customer retention, for example.   

Start small and build up your tags as the process becomes embedded and the whole business sees the benefits and efficiencies from proper tagging. 

Monitor and Measure Data Inventory Effectiveness. 

A good data inventory functions less like the tool of the data management team and more like a dashboard usable across the business. It should be regularly used to inform business decisions and to track business assets.  

To get the most value of your data inventory, you should: 

  • Conduct regular interviews with cross-functional team members regarding the data they collect and use.  
  • Gather feedback from stakeholders at all levels about the inventory’s ease of use, frequency of use, and impact. 
  • Adapt and refine your processes and infrastructure based on the feedback you receive.  

You can also track metrics relating to data accuracy, frequency of updates, and user satisfaction or NPS.  

Automate data inventory updates and improvements wherever possible.  

There is a suite of tools that streamline the entire data discovery, mapping, lineage, and management process. We encourage organisations to consider these automation tools, wherever possible. They can reduce the risk of human error and oversight, streamline the data management process to deliver an immediate ROI, and improve data quality.  

Encourage a culture of data ownership.  

Organisations can do this by rewarding the reporting of new data sources or creating valuable new ‘tags’ for data, appointing data champions, and regularly reminding team members about the importance and value of data assets. Data privacy and security awareness training also plays a crucial role in the development and maintenance of culture within organisations.  

Foundation for data management. 

Ultimately, a comprehensive, up-to-date data inventory is the cornerstone of effective data management.  Putting time into making sure your data inventory is built properly and aligned to your business needs ensures your data management processes are built on a solid foundation. 


To learn more about data inventories, read:  

Data Inventory Management with Privacy 108 

Privacy 108’s consultants partner with you to promote privacy compliance while reducing friction. We develop comprehensive data inventories and implement technologies to streamline the process of managing the data you collect. Ask us for more information. 

Privacy, security and training. Jodie is one of Australia’s leading privacy and security experts and the Founder of Privacy 108 Consulting.