So what do we do about all these sources and differing information? We work at it. It is going to be an iterative process of working through the lists to bring them together. Some of the tools you will use along the way include those built into your existing contact program (the source of the list), Excel, and tools we have built into MRSware.
Following is a short list of a couple of the tools and features to use, and when to use them:
Spreadsheets are just meant for certain things, and working with a lot of data in rows and columns is the primary one. Sort by column headers, like Company Name, to group all of your contacts together. Make sure the Company Names are all spelled the same where appropriate -- it is very common to have normal abbreviations used in differently throughout a list. For example, make sure all those "Co.", "Company", "Inc.", and "Incorporated"'s are used consistently. This will help in reducing duplication of the Companies when the list is imported. Repeat this process, sorting by Last Name this time, making sure that common first names are spelled the same for multiple contacts.
The examples work even better when you can first bring the multiple lists from different sources together into one Excel spreadsheet first. However, in some cases you may not be able to do this easily (particularly when the contacts are coming from entirely different programs). In those cases, you can import the various lists into MRSware and work with the tools there to clean them up.
The contact import wizard allows you to take any contact file in csv (the common spreadsheet format) and import it into MRSware. When contacts are listed with company names, those companies will be created in the system for you -- if the Company already exists, the Contact will be associated with that Company. If a company name is in a row without a first or last name with it, it will be imported as the Company entry. What you get when you are done are the two lists of 1) Companies and 2) Contacts (individuals who work for those Companies).
- Data Item Conflicts
When you are importing it is quite common to have duplication in the contacts or companies. A duplicate entry is one that has almost the same information. Because of this "almost" part -- which could be a PO box vs. a street address, or a variation in the spelling of the name -- the system is unable to determine if it was suppose to be the same entry or not. This is when a Data Item Conflict is generated. The conflict resolution wizard, which you run after the import, helps the user match up to existing or create as new these conflicts entries. Conflicted items of this type are being held up from import until resolutions -- since the system doesn't know how to resolve the items, it is not imported until the user chooses how to resolve it.
- Pending Data Updates
A pending data update indicates that a match between two items was made, but some piece of data is different between what was already in the system and what is being imported. This is typically an extension is different on a contact or perhaps a job title. The user chooses which pieces of information to keep (the existing data from the system, or the newly imported data) to resolve the conflict.
Duplicate Contact Removal, Remove Duplicates
These are two methods -- one as a wizard, the other directly from the contact listing -- of merging multiple contacts into one entry. This is a very efficient way to mere multiple company entries that are suppose to be the same, but were spelled differently. Users can merge many entries at once into one entry. This is typically the easiest and preferred way to eliminate duplicates as it doesn't require the user to cut and paste any information between the contacts being merged, and it will also move associated items in the system over to the kept entry. For example, if two companies are being merged into one, all associated contacts will be reassigned to the company that is kept. In this way no information is lost, or left "floating" without correct association in the system.
For more on how to use the remove duplicates features, refer to the Notes section.