Wow. What an amazing year it has been. We started out in January knowing only one thing: we needed to improve the quantity and quality of our data. So we embarked on a mission to do just that, a mission I described here.

How have we done to date? Pretty well. In fact, we’ve been able to accomplish virtually every goal set to date. Here are some of the things we’ve finished:

  1. Improved our internal tools and processes, so that we are now publishing at a rate that is more than 12x faster than before. That’s more than a 1200% productivity increase.
  2. MVP updates now occur every three months
  3. Launched our Data Library, which is a free online preview of products in the database. Also a good place to go to give us comments on specific products
  4. Launched our Data Request Portal, which allows you to tell us which manufacturers and products to go after first
  5. Improved data request response time to 2 days for proposal ready, 10 days for complete, and roughly 30 days for general requests
  6. Added about 40,000 new products, which is a 57% increase in just 6 months
  7. Got started on data for the security industry

For those of you who like charts:

As you can see, we’ve come a long ways on the quantity front. But what about quality? Quality is our next area of focus. Specifically, we’re looking at ways to significantly improve these data fields:

  • Category and subcategory – this is something that we are admittedly very inconsistent with. To address this, we have established standard definitions for what categories are, and why products go where they go. Expect to see more information on this subject soon, as this is a current focus of the data team
  • Images and documents – this is mostly accomplished. We are now including thumbnail images with virtually every product, and many products have brochures, manuals, CAD drawings and other documents
  • I/O’s – we stopped publishing I/O’s for all products, which really helps keep production moving. However, we still do I/O’s for products requested by users, so it is important that we improve consistency in this area. Standards and training are key to this
  • Discontinued/current – at the moment, there are still a lot of products in the database that are not marked as discontinued, but should be. We are looking at ways to keep the status of products more up-to-date, such as a new MVP manufacturer self-service portal, which is in the works

A final note on quality – ultimately, only our user community is capable of recognizing and correcting all of the errors that might occur for every single manufacturer and product. Our focus for 2011 will be to give users tools to make this as simple as possible, so everyone can benefit from better quality data. One example of this is our Data Request Portal, which allows you to tell us which manufacturers are missing.

So, in summary, we’ve come a long way and have a long way to go. We’re not going to stop improving our data, or our processes, until our users are satisfied and data is simple. Even then, we’ll keep going because there will always be new data, new ways to get data, and new benefits that we can provide our customers.