How data is structured is a common issue I have experienced in many organisations and has often been driven by individual end user requirements, organically growing to meet their specific business needs as they occur. The development of these structures although done with the best intent can lead to inconsistencies in approach and terminology (usually where guidance does not exist or is not adhered to). In some cases structures may already be pre-determined by specific client requirements and/or contractual terms or imposed Computerised Maintenance Management System (CMMS) capabilities, for example.
Data structures not only need to be intuitive to deliver and operate business objectives, but need to be considered clearly for output reporting and ongoing management or there will be the requirement to constantly manipulate outputs from systems to provide intelligent reporting. This manipulation may only appear minor in some cases, but is a consistent drain on resources every time reporting is required and introduces the possibility of errors and, at worst, results in the portrayal of performance outputs as worse than they truly are.
Without a clear line of sight of data, businesses are not able to focus on key issues and identify where improvements are required or quick wins can be achieved. They may be in the dark about key performance issues that mean unnecessary costs and issues will continue to accumulate. Eventually, when the wave of information issues hits the shore then this will require the initiation of a project or team to resolve these issues and the assess the impacts to the business which could consume further time and resources. This kind of issue is not only damaging to the bottom line, but impacts the business credibility and trust with clients. As we should all know, trust is hard earned, easily lost… and even more difficult to regain once lost!
The question really therefore is, are businesses pro-actively identifying their data requirements in their strategies based on long term objectives and requirements, and are these structures intuitive for ease of use?
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