Just 34% say they have a high level of confidence in their operational Data and Analytics (D&A), according to a recent KPMG study.
I can’t say I’m surprised about the huge trust gap. Having worked on many operating strategy and cost related projects, I have experienced the challenge of collecting reliable data over and over again. I have also designed and built several D&A solutions, and battled to ensure data quality, while reducing complexity and increasing transparency.
During my career, I have come to learn a few critical things that, when done right, help create D&A that business leaders will use and trust.
1. Find the right person for the job
Dealing with databases and Business Intelligence tools requires a different language and mindset. All too often, a lot of time and effort is wasted on building unnecessarily complex solutions and reports, just because business and IT people don’t understand each other. Poor communication in the design phase places trust at risk.
Building successful D&A, requires someone who can stand in the middle ground between business and IT, and define requirements in ways that allow for implementable and easily understandable technical solutions. I find that the best results are achieved when companies involve users with the right skills and analytical curiosity. Every organization has these persons – so make sure you pick the right one to lead and drive development of your D&A initiatives.
2. Invest time in training
Creating trust takes time, and developing D&A is no different. If people do not understand where data is extracted and how KPIs are calculated, they have a hard time trusting the figures. If you are fortunate enough to have included the users in design and development, you are halfway to success. Just don’t forget to spend time communicating and teaching the entire user base, in order to convince the other half. Also make sure that you make proper provision for training in your budget. Otherwise, the investment will fail to deliver the desired benefits.
3. Let analytics build trust in the data
D&A tools nowadays allow users to go beyond static dashboards and explore the underlying data. Enabling such analytics is a very powerful way to build trust. Many operational KPIs, such as utilization rate, cost efficiency and safety indicators, are ratios. Unless users can analyse the underlying components, it’s difficult for them to be sure of the data quality, let alone draw the right conclusions. I am an advocate of self-service analytics tools, as I have seen their ability to win over the trust of employees.
4. Ensure effective maintenance
Nothing breaks trust faster than inaccurate data. Seeing your production yield at an unrealistic level of 250% or a safety indicator showing 0 events, just after you read about an injury on the company intranet, will keep users from coming back.
Make sure you establish clear responsibilities for the data and clear lines of support when things go wrong or need modification. Too often, I have seen users switch back to old Excel reporting, just because their change requests have not been answered promptly. As business and operating models undergo rapid change, make sure that your D&A is not left behind. It takes a lot to win confidence, but little to lose it.
The same study that revealed the huge trust gap, also discovered that the majority of businesses see their competitive advantage as being underpinned by D&A. Regardless of whether your particular concern is operational efficiency, or understanding your customer, or managing risk and compliance, it is increasingly important to build D&A capabilities. Personally, I predict successful outcomes in all cases where sufficient resources and time, plus the right skills, are allowed to focus on delivering well-thought-out and tested solutions.
PS. Read the full report here.