Tony Brookes, Founder at didici, explains that optimising your data is dependent on having a platform that identifies outliers – those hidden performance issues that enable competitive advantage.
We live in a world driven by data. It’s a statement that has become a truism. As familiar as feelings of sometimes being overwhelmed by data. This reflects the uneasy relationship many businesses have with data, especially in the case of operators, where it can be seen as more of a burden than a source of insight. Collecting unceasing streams of data - captured from, and held in, multiple disconnected sources and platforms both internally and externally - almost becomes an end in itself.
The pressure to view, understand, interpret and act upon increasing volumes of data is constant to businesses across all sectors. This pressure is driven by the theory of the opportunities that data provides. In sectors of tight margins - where existing routes to business advantage have become equalised or squeezed to uniformity - data offers the chance to stay ahead of the curve.
Data analysis promises greater efficiency, increased productivity, and a discernible edge over your competition. However, this is only possible if you join the dots by combining all your disconnected data – financial, strategic, operational, hr and CX - into one single version of the truth; empowering everyone in your organisation with real time business insight you can act upon.
One version of the truth
How do you successfully achieve these connections, extract the operational insights you need and then get them out across your business? You have probably already tried using, or are considering, existing solutions to integrate your data into one place. Challenges come thick and fast. Such as ensuring a seamless combination of: data capture, search, analysis, sharing and visualisation. Each tool promises that elusive and highly prized single version of the truth. But do they really provide the answer? Is your current software solution actually the best investment to get you where you want to go?
Many systems claim to deliver the answer. However, getting a consolidated and focused view of your overall business remains incredibly difficult. Not least, overcoming the often-unintentional island mind-set that results in data being locked away in silos, with the ever-present threat that this knowledge can be lost if a handful of people leave your company. Siloed reporting platforms and disparate data slows down decision-making and leads to missed business opportunities.
Simply recognising the requirement to collect all your data doesn’t necessarily translate into an easy understanding of, or efficient execution of the next steps. For some businesses, seeing their data in one place is going to make a significant improvement to their operational capabilities. However, too many platforms only take you so far and leave you with an inherent contradiction: you know your business, but you don’t know the platform - so you hire expensive consultants, who know the platform and develop this for you, but don’t know your business. This comes at significant cost both in time and finance, and sadly the failure rates are high.
Those costs, even for a lot of medium-to-large businesses, cause many to step back at perceived barriers, such as a lack of finances, time, and expertise; or to lack the simple will to try - given the difficult task of collecting all their data in one place. And smaller companies, while knowing they would benefit substantially from big data style outputs when their margins for error are so much smaller, simply dismiss the idea at the outset. What is needed is a highly flexible platform that offers all the essential capabilities at an affordable cost.
From top line to outliers
A lot of solutions emphasise top line numbers. Click on a number and this enables you to drill down to the next level of detail, and so on. You may get to see your data but without any indication of what really matters. The insights remain locked in. However, with nothing to tell you which you should be clicking on how can you have an awareness of what is hidden? You need to know where to focus first in order to enable swift action.
There are many ways that crucial detail can remain hidden in aggregated data. A platform that integrates your data streams through a single pane of glass - one which tells you where your problems are - will allow you to analyse and understand all of the factors which drive or detract from your profitability. This will enable your operators to take more tactical action faster, or your data scientists to become more efficient by spending their time concentrating on the more strategic insights.
This integrated data comes from the many channels you rely on to sustain a successful business: sales, labour costs, rotas, customer footfall and feedback, weather forecasts and actuals. These can highlight outstanding best practice - or where money is rapidly leaching away. You need to focus on the 5% of your business that needs your attention – not just the top or the bottom performers - to find the outliers: those ‘needles in haystacks’ contained in your data, awaiting discovery. It’s in this 5% where you will find the hidden issues; a masked truth about your business that is currently unwittingly missed.
Having a system in place to identify these anomalies and outliers enables businesses to identify where their greatest opportunities for improvement lie. Outliers can identify the success stories in your business, revealing under or over performances. As outliers are effectively outside of your expected control points, they are typically used to compare and contrast performance. It might be issues that could be quickly addressed; that when combined, make a bigger difference to your business than anything learned from the traditional location data targets and aggregations.
These outliers are often hard to spot – especially when data becomes aggregated. Once identified though, you can quickly understand the root cause; and take action that is beneficial - either prescriptive or precautionary.
A platform to drive business growth
Flagging up issues from this small but highly significant source can be crucial to your future strategy. From understanding what has driven the outlier alert you can comment and share insights – such as best practice - with your team and the wider business, creating and retaining institutional memory. Any insight gained reinforces the connection of these outliers to the wellbeing of your business as a whole. What is especially important is that outliers are one of the few unexploited opportunities that offer incremental improvements. Making even marginal improvements of 0.25% and .05% can be significant. When combined, this aggregation of small margins can lead to key improvements.
The right data platform requires a range of essential features and capabilities. It should be accessible for all levels of your company to understand – preferably without a need for data scientists to interpret. Be scalable across your business regardless of size, and all without breaking your budget.
It should also be a platform that enables you to make decisions easier, fosters innovation and turns outlier insight into action. This will differentiate you in the marketplace, generate extra revenue from existing products and services, but also develop new avenues to profit. Your choice is fundamentally about effectively competing in a world of tight margins and overworked strategies. Ultimately, it isn’t about your data – it’s about your business.