Article:

How to remain agile in a data driven world

05 December 2018

Picture a professional cyclist who has perfect aerodynamic form with all the right gear – helmet, gloves, shoes and even the Lycra…well maybe don’t picture the Lycra. The rider is in peak physical and mental health but even with all of that – the bikes wheels are square. For some reason, square wheels were all the rage 10 years ago. Despite all their efforts, they are going nowhere fast.

As an avid cyclist, I often relay this analogy to my clients. Too often I have seen organisations that on the surface appear to have a contemporary digital strategy. However, below the surface they are not supported by the underlying capability of the organisations systems and practices. They lack the capability to action their strategies.

The common ‘Achilles Heel’ to these fantastic digital strategies is organisational data. It is equally an organisation’s most precious resource, along with people, but so often we don’t know what the data is or even worse where it is.

The organisations we see succeeding have gone on a journey to not only improve their collection and insights, but to ingrain it in to the key areas of their business and into their culture. While business as usual generates data, it is reports/dashboards that provide insights needed to make agile business decisions. What these organisations achieve is a pro-active understanding of what is happening in their business so they can remain agile. Their agility comes from acting rather than reacting.

As a start, two key systems that can assist your data management are Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP).

  • CRM – keeps a centralised record of stakeholders and relates it to all of their interactions with the organisation. From purchases to website and marketing activities – you should know how and when people interact with you.
  • ERP – Tracks the operations and flow of data through your organisation. These may be the AP/AR functions all the way to stock levels – leverage the value in your data, don’t just move it through the organisation.

With all that data connected between these two systems, think of the insights you could gain and the decisions that can be made.

What is the value of data efficiency?

On a recent project, there were 5 staff involved in doing asset inspections. They spent 1 day in the office weekly to input their carbon copy reports in to a remedial “database”. By re-platforming the database and digitising processes to a web based collection application, each staff member stopped duplicating their work from paper to computer. This new digital method allowed the business to save one day, per person, per week. This created up to 240 days of additional capacity within that team to improve quality, take on additional work and best of all bring near real-time insight in to the operations they were undertaking.

While there were no direct savings, they can now service 25% more clients with the same level of efficiency and improved both the accuracy and quality of information gathered during the inspections. They can now generate a report and schedule appointments within minutes, saving on one of the most important resources of all – time.

Top 5 tips to consider when improving business agility:

  1. Don’t run analogue processes on digital platforms - Filling out paper or forms that act like paper, scanning them and emailing them through the business is NOT a digital process. It’s an “Analogue process, on a digital platform”. Filing cabinets are your enemy, you are locking away business value each night.
  2. Invest in your digital identity – from on-boarding to off-boarding, understand who interacts with your business. Use this knowledge to create a digital identity for them so they can reliably and transparently engage with your digital systems.   
  3. Maximise resources – it’s important to find people inside and outside your organisation with the skills you need to utilise the technology you’re investing in. Too often, people invest in systems without investing in the resourcing required to maximise the business value of your digital assets.
  4. Understand where your hot spots are – don’t try and digitise everything. You can spend a lot of time, effort and money converting the wrong processes or creating reactive reports which take more time compared to the value they add.
  5. Seriously look at ways to build a data driven culture. Work with business units tirelessly to reinforce the value that quality data provides your business to make agile business decisions.

It’s time to replace those square wheels on your bike and break away from the pack.

If you are interested in learning more about digital strategy, please listen to my recent webinar discussing how to Futureproof Your Business – Digital Strategy & Risk. If you have any questions, please feel free to email me at Shane.Swift@bdo.com.au.