From big data to smart data

Jun 16, 2016
In an ideal world, you have access to all the data you need at a glance. In an ideal world, all business applications offer a consumer-like experience. And, in an ideal world, processes are streamlined in such a way that they enable automated actions based on smart data insights. But we don’t live in an ideal world, do we? In fact, we might be closer to an ideal world than we suspect. Many companies store a vast amount of data, waiting to be explored and to reveal the insights they carry within. Only one little hurdle to overcome: data is often stored in a plenitude of systems and applications, scattered across the company. So starting to analyze it, feels a bit like searching for a needle in a haystack.

Connecting the dots

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a single view on data? Data coming from both internal sources (such as planning tools and BI applications) and external sources, to then uncover hidden relationships and propose relevant, role-based insights to the different users. Let me illustrate this with an example. Think of Joe, your field service engineer, who visits about 6 customers per day. Joe leaves home on a Monday morning and drives to his first customer, following the schedule he received for the week to come. What Joe doesn’t know at that time is that traffic to his first customer is not moving and that the spare parts ordered for this customer weren’t delivered. What follows then is that Joe feels frustrated, the customer isn’t being served, the company loses money and its reputation suffers. And it isn’t even 10 a.m. yet.

In many companies these scenarios happen frequently, even if all the data is available to avoid them. The problem is that it is scattered across business units and people often don’t even know it exists. The key lies in offering a single dashboard that unites insights from different sources and triggers automated actions for the user, according to his role and responsibilities.

For Joe, this would mean that he would receive an updated planning, taking into account the traffic jams on his way to customer A and sending him to customer B instead. Simultaneously, Joe’s colleague at the contact center has warned customer A of the delay. The warehouse manager decided to keep the spare parts for customer A on stock. His reporting pointed out they are high runners that are ordered frequently for several other customers as well. I bet Joe already likes the sound of it.

At the end of the month, Joe receives a report from his manager, showing his driving times and distances. He achieved his monthly goal to reduce his carbon footprint, however he dropped out of this month’s top three of best performing service engineers. Bummer.

Unleash your data

Making smarter use of data by having a single view on the most relevant data is a win-win on multiple levels. Managers have access to high-level insights about, for example, their team’s performance, while field service engineers have access to the same data – be it only partly –, presented to them in a clear and user-friendly way, thus supporting them in their job and creating awareness about their improvement potential. Be it in field service, manufacturing, administration, …

In times when big data and the Internet of Things offer unseen opportunities to develop new services and new business models, every company should take a first step and develop a centralized view for smarter business decisions. The data is there, complex algorithms for predictive analytics are available and so is the technology to develop user-friendly web dashboards. So why wait?

Author: Nick Thienpondt. You can follow Nick on Twitter (@NThienpondt) or connect with him on LinkedIn