It’s fair to say that most businesses are onboarding more software and apps than they’re offloading. Okta’s 2021 Business at Work report clocks the average business as using 88 apps! That’s a lot of apps – and a lot of data sources.
In this blog, we’re going to take a look at the obvious and not-so-obvious benefits of consolidating datasets from your business apps. We’ll cover how it makes information more visible for your decision making, how it brings consistency and control to your processes, how it improves your compliance and security, and (usually the first question asked) how it’ll provide a return on investment for your business.
We won’t spend too much time discussing the benefit of information visibility, because it’s probably the most obvious and certainly the most spruiked benefit of consolidating your dataset. We’d like to spend more of your time discussing the other benefits that don’t get as much of the limelight.
But nonetheless, it is a big benefit, because better decisions are always made when more data is available. Would you have eaten at that dodgy restaurant if you had access to the health inspectors’ data? Probably not!
The same can be said for your business; if you’re only looking at one system, you’re not getting the full picture. And remember the saying: “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts”.
Consistency and control
The best standard operating procedures in the world still can’t prevent the human error that arises when the procedure is repeated regularly. It’s why your insurance company passed you over to the wrong department (and set you back in the queue!), or you realise you forgot to put milk in your coffee.
If a human oversees manually collating a dataset each week for your weekly reports, it’s almost guaranteed that an error will work its way in eventually. Humans are fallible.
Computers, on the other hand, are surgical. They’ll do the same thing you ask them to do, day in, day out, and exactly the same way every single time. That’s why an upfront investment in automating your data consolidation is so worthwhile – do it right once, and it’s done forever (maintenance notwithstanding, of course).
In practical terms, this means you can be confident in the metrics you’re reporting to the board because you know the dataset was assembled correctly. On a broader scale, it also means everyone in your organisation is reporting off the same dataset, so you avoid the confusing scenario where your metrics conflict with another analysis because each had slightly different methodologies behind them.
Productivity & return on investment
It’s all too easy to fall into the trap of your weekly reporting taking up far too many working hours – Excel spreadsheets, .csv files, weird custom data formats (and hopefully not paper forms!) all need to be collated, combined, and analysed manually each time you need an answer.
If that sounds like your situation, have you taken the time to consider the true cost to your business? For the sake of argument, let’s say the person preparing the pack each week is on $100k and is spending about a day collating the pack – each report pack costs almost $500!
Now, sure, the report is usually important enough that they can’t be cut. But because these packs are usually pulling the same data sets together each time, they’re prime candidates for automation. Let’s let the computers do what they’re good at: repetitive tasks with surgical precision.
The beauty of such an automated process is that you release a full day of resources to work on something much more valuable – be it more in-depth analysis on specific business opportunities, focusing on new views of data for better insight, or in the case of many smaller business, just doing their core job (which probably has better ROI than collating .csvs and Excel spreadsheets!)
Compliance and security
With ever-growing public awareness of privacy and associated data security, more and more people exercise their “right to be forgotten“. While not a legislative requirement everywhere yet, recognising and acting on these requests should be seen as an important aspect of being a good community citizen. But do you know every location where your customer’s data is stored? And would you be confident in asserting that you have expunged all this information? Even worse – how many uncontrolled datasets are floating around in company laptops and network drives because they were used as part of an analysis pack? What are you doing to protect your customer’s data (and your business interests) from such a serious data breach risk?
Consolidation of your datasets into a single location vastly simplifies all these problems. You’ll no longer need to provide people access to each system’s backend individually, nor will they need to export the data. Instead, you’ll have a unified, consistent dataset sitting centrally (usually on the cloud) where you can hook up your business intelligence tools directly.
This also simplifies your approach to security – does your analyst actually need to know your customer’s street address, or will just seeing postcode suffice? You can create custom column and row slices of this centralised dataset and provide only the relevant slice to the relevant stakeholder in your business. No more “all or nothing” here!
Hopefully we’ve been able to open your eyes up to some of the finer details around the benefits of consolidating your datasets. While seeing more of the big picture is certainly a massive benefit, the others in compliance, security, and productivity should each be a consideration in your investment.
If this sounds like an initiative you’d like to undertake, we’d be happy to design your data strategy, guide you through the execution, and help you realise all of these benefits and more.
Contact us here.