Many SMEs and smaller companies I talk to think Digitisation is for the Unilevers of this world, when they are not distracted by moving to Rotterdam. It certainly is but it is also a tool no company of any size can afford to ignore. Look at your records, now probably mostly online, maybe in the cloud. Think of them as a mine, loaded with treasure which you have to exploit and use for profit. They are there, paid for, begging to be found. Go mining.
Of course, you are right, it is not as simple as that. Data upon data is like snowdrift upon snowdrift. If you can’t clear the last lot the next downpour will swamp you. Data comes with massively powerful analytics and a need to introduce disciplines that may initially irk you. In the end you will find life easier though more methodical. What are these disciplines?
First and most important is the need think of others as well as yourself. Every time I look at the future of work and jobs I see a clearer requirement for collaboration and for considering the needs of others. What I want is important but if I don’t work in such a way that others can collaborate with me I will find myself isolated. To consider others we need understanding, access and flexibility, and all these demand explicit communications. Clarity rules.
Life is not a process but making the routines of life procedural is the best use you can make of time. The mechanics of getting up in the morning and retiring to bed at night require little thought if they are well-established routines. That then leaves you time to think of other, more useful things. Sitting on the exercise bike for half an hour a day is the perfect time to write a blog that may have some lasting value.
With data analytics we need to approach from both ends. What is the output we would like and can use is determined by a good look at our sales and servicing techniques. A straightforward statement of the obvious is a good start. When we started to get computer-driven data in Cerebos in the 1980s it became overwhelming and the MDs reporting to me looked like drowning men and women.
I asked them to write down the 100 figures they would want if that was the maximum number they could have. They were not, of course, restricted in their data in any way, But after the exercise all six of them reduced their data demands by at least 80%. Then the IT team had to mine the data [a] to provide what they had been asked for [b] to provide signals when data was ‘unexpected’. That was the moment an MD and his colleagues had to dig deeper.
Exception reporting was unusual in the 1980s but it worked a treat – once the concept of budgeting and forecasting was fully understood and operational. But that’s the output end. What about input? It’s an old saw that you are only get out what you put in. That is why assumptions cannot be handed down from the top. The people who make the best assumptions are those at the front line of supply, sales and marketing. Make their rewards reflect their forecasts more than their results and you will quickly get better forecasting. Budgets are not a discussion or negotiation but an objective.
Now you will have desirable outputs and possible inputs. There is one more ingredient. Go wild and think of data that would transform your business. Data about raw materials, produces / services and markets. Allow yourself freedom to be silly. Get a few colleagues to join in. Go bananas for a while. It won’t give you a new business but it will make you think about what is synergistic with your existing business. The man selling tee-shirts on the corner of London Bridge sells umbrellas as well. A man for all seasons, you might say.
Mining requires a hard hat, courage and daring. It also requires that you follow the rules.
Do that and your digitisation programme will yield amazing results.
Go mining and you’ll come out on top.