Five most common signs your organisation has a data problem

understanding your data

Data is at the centre of every digital transformation project.  Here are five of the most common signs your organisation has a data problem.

Is your corporate data democratised?

Tech-savvy nerds perform the majority of data analysis; people who are great at understanding data, but not necessarily great at translating the data into business speak or giving it organisational relevance.

In many companies, there’s a divide between the cool cats who make the big, million-dollar business decisions and the data experts who are at the coal-face, crunching the info.

This divide can cost you millions.

Democratise your data!

Make big data available to everyone.  In a controlled and governed way, of course.

Aggregate your data into a central repository and invest time and effort in making it easy to use and interpret by everyone across your business.

There is a real fear in doing this.  Unleashing the whole organisation onto the big data platform will result in hundreds and thousands of dashboards and visualisations that no one looks at or even needs.  But hasn’t that been the case with Excel or even MS Access for the past 20 years?

I’d say that’s only a reflection of the business’s desire to explore the data they have available to find something that’s not in a standard report. Which is why you need to make your big data available to everyone.

Let your whole team explore in their own way but using a much better environment.  One that not only gives them the right data and the right methods but also allows them to share and collaborate.  This is not an impossible task, regardless of how many Book1.xls you have, but much more probable with a proper data environment.

Do you have a common place where everyone can access published dashboards?

Valuable findings must be presented to the right decision makers at the right time.  We all know that, right?  So how do you achieve this through data analytics?

If you don’t have a common digital insights platform then the organisation has a data problem.

Business Intelligence tools are the ideal platform for building compelling dashboards. But you can’t just build a dashboard and email it to whoever.  There’s data consistency, governance, and quality to consider. You have to make sure every business dashboard is:

  • Live
  • Accessible
  • Transparent
  • Challengeable

Dashboards really come to life and really add value when data is blended or merged with other data sources.

For example, you might bring your sales data into the dashboard and then connect it to your staff data to look at the performance of staff against revenue.

Understanding and creating a comprehensive data model is a crucial step when creating a dashboard.  This is not a simple step.

But it is the foundation of a successful dashboard.  Just make sure that all of the right data is brought into the data model correctly.

Typically, most of the data sources that are blended are not connected in their incumbent systems. There’s an inherent knowledge in the business about how they’re connected but the systems may not have that process implemented.

Making sure that logic is persisted into the data correctly and accurately is very important.

Do you have any data analytics capabilities in house?

Data analytics can seem like an intimidating prospect.  A “nice to have” rather than a “must have”.  It’s always one of those jobs that’s given to the IT team to handle or the team member that’s ‘really good with computers.”.

You must take this seriously.  Build a capability!

Starting at the top, you will need a champion; someone who is going to drive this like a business unit.  This someone must take ownership, be accountable but also have a budget (time and money) plus the support from the top.

Organise a solid team.  Assess what skills you have in the business and go get the ones you need to achieve the right balance.

  • Identify what skills are available in house
  • Develop skills through training
  • Acquire skills from outside
  • What skills are not essential

Get outside resources to help when you need to.  This may be less than desirable but there is a significant shortage of quality data scientists at the moment.  Inhouse may not be an option in the early stages.

Whichever path you take, make sure you establish a reliable set of data analytics capabilities and do it early.

Can your corporate systems communicate with each other?

Most organisations have data stored in three or four key systems. These usually include an ERP, some form of accounts package, a marketing solution and perhaps payroll or an inventory solution.

Each of these systems aren’t always made by the same company and therefore aren’t designed to talk to each other out of the box.

How do you make sure that the data stored in one solution is able to communicate automatically with the data in the other solutions?  Especially when you have three or four maybe five solutions that you want to get consolidated data from.  This is a bit of a technical challenge.

Data engineering is the technical side of how to make this happen.  Data engineers create a series of data connectors and data flow pipelines that connect each of the systems together.  These connectors interpreted the data in one system and translate it so the other systems understand it.  These connectors are also automated so that they work without human intervention.

The best part is when data is updated in one system, like customer data, these connectors make sure the data in the other system is also updated.

Do you prepare your board reports manually?

inefficient reporting systems costs businesses millions each year.  The time needed each month to prepare and distribute PDF reports is astronomical…

…and at the same time, totally avoidable.

One of our clients reported that it took 3 of their employees 2 weeks per month to prepare the reports for the regular board meetings.

This translates to 1.5 FTEs dedicated only to reporting annually!

On further investigation, it was clear that the monthly reports were an enormous burden and took a toll on those involved. But because they were ‘critical’ and so important for the board, everything else took a back seat to be able to do the reports.

Despite this massive effort every month, we found many of the reports not viewed.  Of those examined, some of the C-Suite did not trust them and even had their staff build their own version!

This company is not alone.

An antiquated and inefficient reporting system places massive burdens on too many businesses.  It costs millions in lost productivity each year. On the upside, thousands of companies are benefiting from automated reporting.

Automating reporting creates cost savings of between 20% and 30%.  They also support an increase in net profit within 6 months of implementing a set of live dashboards has also been reported.

If you are still spending time and effort manually preparing monthly PDF reports, this could be a sign that your organisation has a data problem.

Do you know if your organisation has a data problem?

If any of these resonate with you, you may have a problem.  Rest assured, these problems aren’t fatal if caught early.