Commercial Data Capture: 3 points to consider

Seemingly every large corporate and most listed companies in Australia are working to leverage big data with the intention to reduce costs and deliver efficiencies through data driven software, data analytics, machine learning algorithms and intelligent machines. In some cases this results in the replacement of some thousands of workers, in others it results in increased output or a safer work environment.

Small and medium businesses need not be left scratching their heads at how to join the party to improve efficiency and safety. Capturing historic operating activities and transactions (revenues and costs) in a digital and referable/consistent form is a great start. In this article we will look at three steps.

  • Data collection
  • Data management
  • Data Analytics – Having the end use in mind

Data Collection

Planning is critical to do this well. Think about a sustainable approach to collecting data and an architecture or structure to store and share your data. A little planning and thinking at the start with a focus on the business use cases and the insights you want to achieve is the key.

Try to avoid pushing ownership of this “data warehouse” to the IT department to avoid a technology heavy solution with sometimes little reference to the end businesses case. Put very simply, using a business use case driven data warehouse to store operational information together with financial and HR data is the first step to leveraging data for your business.

Data Management

In doing this a key is to ensure the different divisions or areas of your business use the same references (e.g. names for customers or assets). This speaks to common master data management across your organisation’s data sets. Decide which systems “own” what data elements and work at your mapping to make your data referable.

At Biarri we have worked with large businesses which have issues with simple data such as accurate delivery addresses for their customers.  Sure the regular delivery driver or sales representative might know exactly where an important customer is – but without an address or geocode for a customer in the data – any objective quantitative analysis of delivery sequences or route efficiency becomes very difficult. The billing address is regularly not where the client operates or where work needs to be done!

Use the new data warehouse to dissolve the barriers between the finance system, HR records and the operational movement of people, equipment and stock. Combining this information into a common data repository can be very valuable.  

Are you using your in-vehicle monitoring system data? Do you even have access to it all?  How are you capturing WHS and incident information (by time, staff member and location) and is it in a form which can be combined with other data?

Remember also that with data analytics time is your friend. The longer the history of information you have, often the more valuable are the insights. What are the trends in the data over time and what does this tell us about the future (near term and longer term). What correlations exist between data sets and how can they be used to predict future events?

We’ve written about this before and you can see other tips here.

Data Analytics – Having the end use in mind

Once you are collecting your data across the business in a recurring and consistent way it is time to make better business decisions.

The obvious starting point is historical analysis including activity based costing, customer profitability and market segmentation analysis. But there is so much more. The right data warehouse can support an array of uses including operational reporting, data streaming and dashboards, management reporting and business intelligence, predictive analytics and quantitative models through to data driven optimisation tools.

Over many years Biarri has assisted customers with:

  •       dashboards for management reporting;
  •       analytics to monitor suppliers performance;
  •       advanced analytics and statistical analysis of WHS data sets to identify trends and causes for injury; and
  •       complex planning and scheduling applications using automated data feeds from businesses.

Biarri – making the world more efficient.

By Ash Nelson, MD Biarri Optimisation

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