Interviewed by Jayne Gest
Organizations don't always have complete control over their data. Perhaps, a third party hosts it, the data isn't in the right format for those who need it, or employees are spending time manually inputting data or moving it from one system to another.
However, data that isn't controllable, accessible or shareable is pretty much worthless. It can't be used to improve business decisions.
If, for example, a company's data is on a third-party website, it may be unstructured and mixed in with other information. Employees might have to manually log into the third party, download Excel sheets, pull out the needed information and recopy it into a new, structured Excel sheet.
This scenario - a true spreadsheet nightmare - isn't uncommon, but the right technology tool, which includes automating some manual processes, can help companies manage their data. This, in turn, can decrease errors and increase efficiencies.
Smart Business spoke with Sudhir Achar, CEO at EOX Vantage, about gaining control or full access to your data.
Why is it so important to have data in a format that's available and accessible?
Many companies have policies about data architecture, like ensuring the format is correct and that data automatically populates into business systems. The more you can make data accessible and shareable among the people who need it, the more valuable it is. It, then, can be utilized to reduce time and errors, simplify and accelerate processes, improve visibility, and create hard cost savings by utilizing staff for more important assignments.
Sometimes, however, the data is controlled by a third party. Even if the information is easy to find and track, if that third party's website goes down for any length of time, your business could be left scrambling. That's why it's good to set up processes to scrape that third party's files and get your information under your own control.
These outside parties may be able to provide an application programming interface (API), which can give access to data and allow an organization to port the information into a different application. An example would be if you wanted to integrate your customer relationship management system with HubSpot. HubSpot could provide an API to enable you to sync all of that data into your own product.
If the third party won't provide an API, companies can still utilize technology tools to gain control of that data. And in either scenario, it's best to set up parameters that can automatically bring that data into a spreadsheet, email, PDF, etc. Another best practice is to have that data input into an enterprise operating system, so the data can be pulled in with other data, which provides visibility and control as your business leaders use real-time data to make more informed decisions.
If an organization wants to add clarity to its data, what are some best practices?
Start with the low hanging fruit - the processes that are most repetitive and take the most time. It is important to look at the top line and what is going to have the most impact.
A good way to determine how to scrape data to move it from one system to another is to picture a Venn diagram with two circles, which encompass the visions of the CIO and CEO. The CEO will understand all the business information, but may not consider all the aspects that an IT professional would identify. The area in which the two circles intersect holds the most relevant information or the most necessary datapoints to scrape. For example, a CIO might recommend 25,000 datapoints, while the CEO selects 300,000 data points. In addition to finding the common datapoints among those, a technology consultant can help you determine what you really need. In this case, the final data scrape was consolidated down to just 850 datapoints.
Companies also should not jump headfirst into any new technology buzzword that comes along. Instead, perform a solution analysis with the assistance of a reliable consultant. Remember, in terms of successful digital transformation implementation, it's not possible to read the entire book at once. First you must start with the preface to understand what lies ahead, and then you can take your digital transformation chapter by chapter.