A company of 20 or 30 employees generates a lot of important data – data critical to making fundamental business decisions, to determining the company’s course and to increasing productivity.
Unfortunately, much of the data is never collected and that which is received by mid- and upper-tier management is virtually useless. Why?
Because too often data is collated and reported by IT professionals for IT boffins.
Even in the boardrooms of enterprise-grade corporations, each individual board member has a different level of understanding of the information contained in a report. For example, it’s unlikely that the Head of Marketing will understand the consequences of downstream cash flow on R & D based on 200 pages of numbers, charts, graphs, circles and arrows. It’s still gibberish to that executive.
On the other hand, the company CFO breezes through the pages of raw data, develops an overview and understands the utility of the information on first read. The result? Some of the decision makers understand the data and all of its implications, some “sort of,” “kinda understand” but aren’t very confident in their knowledge, and some segment of the decision making chain is utterly clueless about what they’re looking at.
The consequences of this lack of data utility leads to lowered productivity, misunderstandings among employer and employees or client and service provider, and it limits input from those who lack the technical background to interpret raw data and draw conclusions.
Increasing Data Value
By creating data that can be understood by all members of the decision-making team, data can be:
- integrated into existing systems and company procedures
- compared and contrasted against earlier data
- presented as more than an abstract concept. The data, in an understandable format, gives all stakeholders the opportunity to add to and utilize existing information.
- contested and debated (the data may be incorrect but a non-technical reader wouldn’t know that ploughing through endless reams of IT input). This is, perhaps, the most critical use of data and all stakeholders must receive useable information in order to create improved best company practices.
Steps to Increase Data Utility
Data is configured in a variety of ways: as rows of numbers, as pie charts and X and Y axis graphs, in text (evaluations and conclusions of other stake holders, for example), in photos, PowerPoint presentations and other visual and non-visual formats.
The first key to utilizing data more effectively is to ensure that each team member reviewing the data has the data in a format best suited to his or her skill set. For example, a non-technical individual won’t make sense of row upon row of data. However, that decision maker can read, understand and assimilate that same data as a pie chart, bar graph or some other visual aid.
IT people and accountants should be instructed to synthesize those numbers into forms that ordinary people can fully utilize, and leave the 200-page, number-packed report for the number crunchers.
Reports should also include projected outcomes of various scenarios, detailing the consequences of choice A over choice B. This eliminates the need for non-boffins to “figure out” the best course.
There should be on-going interaction between the stakeholders. If it isn’t clear to the accounts receivable person, the company may lose revenue due to a simple miscommunication.
Finally, reports should be made available in several formats from the complete data construct (all 200 pages of it) to a 10-slide PowerPoint presentation for the administrative staff who will be implementing the new procedures
All data is NOT created equal. In fact, some of it is created simply to impress the outsiders and keep the technicians on that magical pedestal.
Useable data takes many forms. One size does NOT fit all.