The world we live in is obsessed with information; although society is firmly in the ‘information age’, there is a tendency to collect data from every conceivable source and present it ad nauseum.
In business, the analysis of data can provide organisations with vital competitive advantage if – and only if – the resultant information is acted upon decisively and data not collected merely because it’s the ‘thing to do’.
Many off-the-shelf applications enable organisations to replicate legacy data collection methods (the ubiquitous paper-based form on a clipboard) with little or no analysis as to what is actually required to collect, analyse and present data in the current operational environment. Storage space is under constant pressure as paper records mount up and current requirements of transparency, such as GDPR, can present logistical issues and one can easily see the advantage of digitising records for ease of search purposes.
However, digital storage (cloud or on premise) can incur costs which, although often regarded as minimal at first, can quickly become significant unless managed properly. If the ‘sticking plaster’ approach is taken, our experience clearly indicates that clients are faced with ancillary issues, such as security concerns caused by random access, particularly for data that could have wide-reaching consequences (as in the case of GDPR-related data, for example).
A common knee-jerk reaction is to digitise for a single purpose in order to provide a sticking plaster for a specific issue, only to be replicated by the introduction of a myriad systems reacting to the constantly occurring next flavour of the month.
The digital approach to data collection brings tremendous advantages in accuracy, complete transparency, and speed of data analysis and publication, both internally and externally. However, this sea change in data management can only be totally effective and efficient if the data collected is appropriate and relevant to the operational decision-makers, will be acted upon, and integrates with any existing management information systems.
It is our experience that an off-the-shelf app builder does provide a simple, cost-effective alternative to laborious paper-based systems, but it will only ever be a ‘sticking plaster’ response to entering the digital age unless an in-depth systems analysis of data requirements is objectively and clinically conducted. The advantage of an externally-based systems analysis eliminates the natural in-built bias to current procedures and the results can be transformative.
Over the years, there have been advocates for business processes to be constantly reviewed in the name of efficiency and cost reduction, but the digital transformation now available through advances in technology, and particularly connectivity, can provide the forward-thinking organisation with the opportunity for in-depth surgery on its core asset – data.
Rodney Smith is the operations director of OperaQuest.