Turning data into information and information into opportunity

by Ketan Govan Senior Associate - Data & Analytics, PwC United Kingdom

What one technological development has the greatest immediate potential for business leaders? I’ll give you a hint. In my experience it isn’t Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning or Predictive Analytics. Powerful though all those can be, I’ve found the actual answer to be something much more fundamental; effectively recording, holding and reporting valuable information.

I have been a data practitioner for five years and the more I engage with clients, the more I’ve learnt that it is very common for business leaders to not have effective management information (MI). They could have access to huge amounts of data, but struggle to turn it into meaningful and actionable insight. Often, this is due to the lack of capability in legacy systems, the poor quality of underlying data or the ‘siloed’ storage of that data across different sources, making it difficult to bring together consistently.

However, I think it’s more than this and not often admitted. A lot of organisations need to get the fundamentals right! Defining consistent KPIs, understanding data models and embedding a reporting strategy are key to growth and stability. Without such thought or implementation there’s no clear direction and the data within the organisation just leads to poor decision making or decisions being made on gut feel.

Even after five years, I still get a real thrill in telling a client something they didn’t know already using their data, and I’m confident this will still be the case in ten years to come. I’ve taken my passion and put it into working with clients to help them embed a smarter and efficient approach which captures meaningful data and turning it into trusted information to enable them to obtain greater insight.

A client who I’ve been working with over the last 18 months is an excellent example of how having effective MI is highly beneficial and transformed the way they operate. This particular client had significant challenges with the quality and effectiveness of their commercial reporting. Having acquired a number of new businesses, they were losing control over their data and were unable to keep up with the rapid growth. They struggled to maintain consistent KPIs across the business, the underlying data to support decision making was poor quality and inconsistent across their multiple sites which all meant they were far from making informed and timely decisions.

We worked closely with senior stakeholders to understand their business in order to define consistent core KPIs, identify key areas of improvement, and bring together multiple streams of data which were previously used for ‘paper-based’ reporting. In doing so, we wanted to help them get a better grip on the fundamentals by focusing on the questions they really needed their data - and reporting - to answer.

We developed a bespoke sustainable and scalable visual KPI analysis. The tool is used by 60+ users and is core to monitoring performance. The business now has real cross site engagement and exploration of expanding sales opportunities and reducing costs. They also have the ability to report across a flexible time frame, measure against national targets, analyse customer and product activity and compare against prior year and budget volume / prices and forecast future sales.

With data quality and processes this robust, should the organisation choose to explore advanced analytics, they’re in a far better place to make full use of its transformative potential due to having a solid base to work from.

Since implementing this tool, we have worked with this client to deliver three further data analytics tools, driving efficiency across the organisation and providing real valuable insights.

So, let's forget about robots and flying cars, at least for now, and embrace the opportunities you can find through focusing on getting the fundamentals right.

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by Ketan Govan Senior Associate - Data & Analytics, PwC United Kingdom

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