Trucks at Work
Untangling data

Untangling data

But CEOs do not just want more data. They want better data. Specifically, this means more forward-looking information, which includes both financial and non-financial metrics.” –From the 12th Annual Global CEO Survey published by PricewaterhouseCoopers earlier this year

Good, clean data is apparently hard to find – and that is often times making a hash of efforts by many companies large and small to not only improve their operations but expand them as well.

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That’s what CEOs revealed, at any rate, in the 12th Annual Global CEO Survey published by consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers earlier this year. The firm said more than 70% of CEOs in its survey said they aren’t getting the data they need to make good choices, with 74% stating they lack the information necessary to anticipate customer needs.

That’s pretty surprising, to say the least, considering just how much data management technology is out there in the world today. Indeed, the trucking industry alone has a veritable plethora of software systems available to compile hundreds (if not thousands) of various data points on an ongoing basis so carriers can make their operations run more efficiently, at lower costs, in order to maximize profits.

Yet the issue isn’t with the technology itself so much as with the data being fed into it, according to Arkady Kleyner, co-founder of Intricity, LLC, a business intelligence and data warehousing firm.

“Executives lack information, not data. It is far too easy today to provide data dumps to a business and have them search for that proverbial needle in a haystack,” he explained recently in a nice little interview with Tony Panaccio, a staff writer for News & Experts Syndicate.

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“Our assumptions of business value have to change,” Kleyner said. “Anyone who attends management meetings to review sales, inventory, or costs, knows the issues all too well, with the most common question asked being, ‘why are your numbers different than my numbers?’ By fixing the data mess, companies can achieve a single version of the truth.”

The key problems can be boiled down to six basics, according to Kleyner:

1. There is one special spreadsheet on your computer that, if lost, it would make you cry. Aside from the issue of accessibility, these spreadsheets usually become outdated very quickly, and are very time consuming to update because the task of updating them is largely manual. They are also subject to errors and typos and lacking in security.

2. You hope an auditor never asks you how you calculated the numbers in your financial reports. When reports are the result of data that has been manually aggregated and consolidated from disparate sources, tracing the reported numbers back to their origins can be a horrendous task.

3. You have Acme Corporation in your customer database four different times – Acme, Acme Inc., Acme Incorporated, and Acme Corp. When data is entered in different ways through different systems by different people, the task of bringing it together into a single picture can be a real challenge. This inevitably complicates the task of answering simple questions such as ”How much business have we done with Acme?” or “Is Acme a profitable account?”

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4. The only role whose level of performance is quantified in your organization is sales. In trying to calculate Return on Investment (ROI), it’s sometimes difficult to assign a dollar value to company functions that don’t plug directly into revenue. Therefore, the sales team will always have hardcore data regarding their activities, while every other department gets to exist in a vacuum without any sort of metrics. However, good performance management practices supported by near real-time data that can help quantify every department’s impact on the bottom line – positive and negative.

5. You don’t request the report you want from the IT [information technology] department because the information will be irrelevant by the time you get it. Too many company executives under estimate the effort required across the organization to produce accurate reporting. It’s not uncommon for monthly reports to actually take 30 days to produce. Better information management affords everyone across the business information that is timely and relevant.

Regardless of company size, or complexity, effective data integration is important for creating “true” business intelligence that delivers a 360° view of business performance, Kleyner pointed out.

By bringing disparate data together, correlating it logically, and then presenting it in a way that drives the organization to action is how businesses – trucking or otherwise – can get their hands on the information they need to survive and grow in these tough economic times, he believes. Something at least worth thinking about as the industry prepares for (hopefully) better days in the year ahead.