Percent of effort… days to review… delivery time. So much data, so little time. Whether trying to measure employee satisfaction, departmental performance or company profit, business needs to keep track of the data that will allow them to make informed and accurate decisions.
No doubt your organization is already collecting a great deal of data. Most of that is probably significant. Some of it is redundant. There is also some that may not contribute all that much to overall business intelligence. Besides, it’s not uncommon for different areas to collect similar information “just in case”. You may find that you literally have more data than you know what to do with.
It’s accepted among compliance experts that 80% of business data is kept in spreadsheets. Spreadsheets are ubiquitous and everybody knows how to use them. They are also a “lowest-common-denominator” format. If the data is in a table or spreadsheet, odds are good that some of it originated elsewhere. Odds are also good that parts of it can and will be copied into other systems or reports.
While you can’t swing a dead mission statement without hitting a spreadsheet, you may also find other troves of business data throughout your company. How about those renegade Access databases keeping track of the work passing through your department? Or all those SharePoint lists used to track individual projects or objectives? Or the pricing information pushed out to those in the know, via Oracle snapshots or materialized views? Data is plentiful. But if you don’t have a handle on accessing it, it can be—at best—buried treasure, or—at worst—a waste of labor and resources.
As these different pockets of information flourish, the challenge is to somehow unify it all. To present it meaningfully so that decision-makers can get on with the business of interpretation. No system is effective if it means navigating to several locations to find the information necessary to make decisions. So, it is important to be able to connect and aggregate these various sources. Also to do it efficiently, while the data still has meaning.
The more research and planning that goes into the creation of these sets of data, the more meaningful the data can be when it’s all connected… and the easier it will be to connect it. Want to aggregate sales information for products sold worldwide? There is probably a list somewhere that contains all managed products, as well as their local versus global marketing information. Have a need to track the hours spent by employees on departmental projects? You might find that your division or department has documented and enumerated all of its projects in a system, and may already have made information available for those projects.
And don’t forget that, when the time comes to mine all of this data, you’ll need to link apples to apples. Units, periods and codes should align (or be able to be aligned) in order to reliably link the rest of the data. And, even though computers update information accurately and frequently, the output is only as good as the input. Or, as they say, “Garbage in, garbage out.”
The days are gone when IT would act as a gatekeeper to the homogenous Data Warehouse that served all. The reality now is that agility is (among other things) a function of the ability to collect, aggregate and summarize data stored in otherwise disparate systems.
When the data is linked correctly and strategically, the resulting sets of information can provide metrics and reports that allow decision-makers to extrapolate and analyze the data in specific ways. This data can also provide an up-to-date status to a dashboard or other graphical view that lets you monitor Key Performance Indicators and trends. And, of course, the more frequently the data is updated, the more accurate is the analysis.
As they say, “You can’t manage it if you can’t measure it.” Neither can you measure it if you can’t manage it. Getting a handle on what information is collected in your business and sifting through what is necessary and what is not, can not only give you a better perspective of your business but can also help identify effort wasted in collecting unnecessary or redundant data. It’s a win-win.