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Stale Data Leads to Bad Business Decisions

Relying on stale data to make crucial decisions can have dire consequences. In this blog post, we delve into the detrimental effects of using outdated information, exposing the risks and highlighting the importance of accurate data for informed decision-making.

May 23, 2023

Hooked on Data

May 23, 2023
Stale Data Leads to Bad Business Decisions

Have you ever made a business decision based on inaccurate data that jeopardizes the success of the company? Data is the foundation of decision-making, and it can have a significant impact on a company's bottom line. Therefore, it's critical to ensure that the data is as fresh as possible to avoid making costly mistakes. In this article, we'll discuss how stale data can lead to bad business decisions and what can be done to avoid them.

Stale Data Definition and Use Cases

First things first, what is stale data? Also referred to as "old" or "outdated" data, stale data is data that's no longer fresh or accurate. Stale data can cause a range of problems, including decisions being made based on outdated information and poor customer experience.

Stale data can affect any department, from sales to marketing, to customer service. For example, sales leaders may make hiring decisions based on revenue data that is outdated, resulting in a bad fit for the company. Another example could be automating marketing e-mails with reverse ETL while using stale data, leading to poor customer engagement.

Impact of Stale Data on Decision-Making

The impact of stale data can be catastrophic, leading to bad business decisions that can seriously hurt the bottom line. For example, inaccurate revenue projections can lead a company to make poor investment decisions, leading to a loss of revenue. Poor customer experience can also result from decisions made based on stale data, leading to unhappy customers and lost revenue.

It's not just the decision-makers who are affected by stale data. Different departments can also be impacted, with sales being the most significant. Sales leaders could be relying on outdated data, leading to missed opportunities and lost revenue. To illustrate this, let's say that you're the VP of Data at Rainforest, the VP of Sales is using the daily_revenue table to make decisions about expanding into new markets, and the VP of Marketing uses the 'activated_users' table to define who to send new offers to.

Rainforest GTM Data Flow

Causes and Solutions for Stale Data

Stale data is a common problem that can be caused by a range of factors. One such factor is poor data management, such as a lack of monitoring, which can result in data not being refreshed as frequently as it should. Other issues like data pipeline bugs can also result in stale data.

To solve the problem of stale data, there are several solutions. One solution is to implement data refresh schedules, ensuring that data is updated frequently. Another solution is to use data observability tools like Metaplane, which can monitor data pipelines to ensure data freshness. To illustrate the importance of data management, let's say you're the head of data at Rainforest again, and you've noticed that the activated_users table is not refreshing as frequently as it should be. Upon investigation, you discovered that it was due to a bug in the ELT pipeline, which was quickly fixed.

Importance of Data Observability

Data observability is the practice of monitoring, troubleshooting, and ensuring data quality. It's critical because it helps identify and prevent issues such as stale data, ensuring that data is as fresh as possible. Implementing data observability can help companies like Rainforest avoid problems like outdated data and reduce the risk of bad business decisions.

To illustrate the importance of data observability, let's say you're VP of Data at Rainforest again, and you've implemented Metaplane as your data observability tool. You receive an alert that the daily_revenue table hasn't refreshed in 24 hours, and upon investigation, you discover that a change in the ELT pipeline caused an incorrect number of rows to be imported, making your insights inaccurate.


In summary, stale data can lead to bad business decisions with catastrophic consequences. It's essential to ensure data freshness to avoid making decisions that could jeopardize a company's success. There are several solutions to address the problem, including implementing data refresh schedules and using data observability tools like Metaplane.

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