Data platforms pave the way to a unified source of truth
Can I trust that the data I am using is correct?
Every company possesses some form of management information, and many operate based on KPIs. Behind these figures lie questions we ask on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis—how much we earn, how much money we spend, and so on. Simultaneously, we face more complex inquiries such as: Why are we losing customers, and what are the major factors driving this? What is the optimal route for our drivers? Which products should we procure more of? And can I trust that the data I am using is correct?
There are millions of Excel spreadsheets out there attempting to compile various datasets to provide good answers to these questions. Don't get me wrong; Excel is a great tool, but it isn't particularly efficient as complexity grows. Many individuals maintain their private Excel spreadsheets with their own time series, formulas, and graphs. They have constructed their own truth, while a colleague might have a slightly different one. When they come together in a leadership meeting to make decisions, suddenly, it's not so easy to reach a consensus.
Ask the Right Questions
To work more intelligently with data, I would begin by aligning on the questions we aim to gain insight into. These questions dictate the data and sources we should focus on, the time series involved, and how we calculate KPIs. This becomes the truth we want everyone to adhere to.
The truth should be easily accessible and preferably efficient to use, especially when dealing with substantial data or numerous individuals seeking access. This often sparks the idea of a data platform. Yes, the investment might seem significant, but I believe the hidden costs associated with private Excel formulas, calculations, confusion regarding what is actually true, and ineffective meetings and decisions are even greater. They are just concealed from our view.
Build Data Platforms
In the field of salmon farming, an area I've been extensively involved in recently, there's a growing need to trace the well-being of salmon throughout the entire value chain, from roe to slaughter. This entails providing operations managers, fish health supervisors, and leadership with the necessary data foundation to make informed decisions. Transitioning from Excel to a more structured approach is not only more efficient but also essential for delving into complex biological questions and comparing data from multiple years of operations.
Effective utilization of data begins with identifying the questions at hand. These questions guide you towards the data necessary to create a unified truth. You don't necessarily need to establish a data platform just to pose questions and find answers, but if you and your colleagues regularly require reliable answers and seek tools to outperform competitors or optimize internally, I would at least consider whether there are better tools than Excel and intuition available