News has hit that Britain’s “world-beating” Test and Trace system has been running out of an Excel spreadsheet. A piece of information that has left us and many other Britons dumbfounded at the carelessness and lack of data management.

The issue occurred when people who tested positive were not recorded once a master Excel spreadsheet reached its maximum size – 16,384 columns, aka “XFD”.

The loss of 16,000 coronavirus cases comes from a complete mismanagement of sensitive data through the decision to use Excel over more suitable and robust database software.

Data Mishap

Making this a completely avoidable, but all the more infuriating mistake.

What can businesses learn?

If you as a business were to be involved with a database disaster the impact it would have would hopefully be less life-threatening however, your reputation and bottom line could be drastically affected.

“635 organizations of various sizes and from different industries disclosed that they fell victim to data breaches in 2018.”
Privacy Rights Clearinghouse

Knowing your limitations

If anything, the above example of mismanaged data should really hammer home, the importance of understanding the limitations of the tools you are using. Programmes like Excel serve a purpose up to a point, but if you’re storing huge data sets and not properly structuring them then issues like this are going to occur.

The same can be said if your business is using outdated data sets, along the line somewhere a mistake is going to happen. You need to know when to review your systems, and to cleanse and enrich the data you have.

Failure to do so can lead to inaccuracies in your data sets, making them easier to mismanage and fall out of governmental guidelines.

The consequences of mismanaged customer data

Legal action

Proper data management has been in the zeitgeist for quite some time now and continues to grow in importance for customers when making purchasing decisions. Even governing bodies have put in place stricter regulations to protect consumers and their data.

General data protection regulation (GDPR), for example forced many companies to evolve their data capture and management processes in favour of customers. Not complying with these regulations has seen companies face serious fines, even with smaller infractions.


However, legal action can and has been carried out if a company abuses and mismanages a customer’s personal data. The Marriott for example has already been served several class-action lawsuits in relation to the massive data breach that occurred in late 2018.


One such consequence of being involved in a public mismanagement of customer data is having your business devalued on the market. An example of this would be when Yahoo suffered a number of data breaches in 2014, affecting nearly all of its 3 billion user accounts.


Data ServicesAt the time Verizon were in talks to acquire Yahoo and because of these data mishaps, Yahoo were forced to sell at a $350 million involuntary discount.

Damaged reputation and bottom line

Possibly the most damning consequence a business can suffer from mismanaged customer data is a loss in confidence from your customer base.

After all, the relationship between business and consumer is just that, a relationship. And it must be worked on and nurtured for a trust to develop. This trust takes years to cultivate and can be destroyed in seconds with one mishap.

This reigns true from the smallest e-commerce business to a mega-corporation like Uber; who was the target of a group of hackers breaking into their system, compromising the records of 35 million users worldwide.

However, it wasn’t the breach that cemented a lack of trust, it was how Uber responded to it. Uber decided to try and cover up their data breach by keeping employees and users out of the loop.


You can see clearly how deep the hole Uber dug themselves into through this graph and how even two years later they still hadn’t managed to regain their previous footing in the industry.

This lapse in trust with your customer base will have a direct impact on your ability to make a profit, with fewer people having reason to trust you with their personal information, you will gain access to fewer data sets.

This restriction in data will cause your personalised marketing campaigns to suffer as well as your ability to make a sale.

Avoidable disasters

The reason it is so frustrating to see these big businesses and even our own government make the same mistakes over and over again is because of how simple it is to avoid them.

By taking a little time and resources you can stitch together an effective data management strategy that will help not only protect your business but your reputation.

Below is simply what it takes to keep your datasets safe and manageable:

  • A capable CRM / storage for
  • GDPR compliant data capture
  • A data management strategy;
  • Data Cleanse
  • Data Enrichment

If you’re interested in learning more about how to effectively manage your databases, get in contact with one of our experts today.

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