Avoiding analysis paralysis and using data to boost growth

By Greg O’Loan, regional vice president, ANZ, Epicor Software Corporation

Internet traffic is set to explode, with predictions suggesting it could hit 4.8 zettabytes per year by 2022, which is more than three times the 2017 rate. (1) In Australia, this traffic will consist of data flowing between people and applications, including Internet of Things (IoT) sensors and streaming services, and will increase even further when 5G services become mainstream.

While consumers will account for some of this traffic, much of it will come from organisations. Increasing digitalisation means organisations are creating a tsunami of data, from financial transactions and production processes to emails. In fact, in 2018, around 124 billion business emails bounced around the world every day. By 2021, this number is likely to increase to 320 billion emails every single day. (2)

If this number seems overwhelming, that’s because emails are likely to be overwhelming many office workers; on average, they receive more than 120 pieces of digital correspondence daily. (3) Dealing with all that information can create a significant headache for workers.

In a recent study, nearly three-quarters (74 percent) of employees claim they’re dealing with more and more data, while almost two-thirds (62 percent) said they are often overwhelmed by the sheer volume of emails they receive. Over a third (35 percent) went on to confess they feel stressed every day, due to information overload. (4)

The paradox is that businesses are increasingly reliant on data but such a huge amount of data can lead to so-called ‘analysis paralysis’; a situation where the sheer volume of data makes it impossible to see a clear vision of the truth or make smart business decisions.

This is a significant problem for people at all levels of the organisation, including CEOs (62 per cent), IT workers (44 per cent), operations staff (63 per cent), and finance professionals (70 per cent).

This inability to effectively assimilate data and use it to make the right strategic decisions creates a business risk that must be addressed. Organisations can no longer afford to operate according to managers’ instincts or estimates; it’s essential to harness the data that is available to drive operational decision-making.

Data is most effective when it offers full visibility into operations across the business. Managers need on-demand access to the right information. However, a KPMG report into global manufacturing found that 43 per cent of senior executives said they either had limited or no visibility at all into their supply chain. This means it’s impossible for these executives to make fact-based decisions; they’re literally blind.

Organisations can overcome this challenge by accepting that the right technology is indispensable in wrangling the data available and using it to the organisation’s advantage. Humans alone can’t gain the visibility and insights that data-based systems can.

Organisations need to choose a platform that includes business intelligence and analytics software, enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, and, for manufacturers, manufacturing execution software (MES). Together, these systems can collect, distil, interpret, edit, and present meaningful data in a timely manner. Decision-makers can use these insights to highlight issues to be addressed and opportunities to be leveraged in near real-time, giving the business a competitive advantage.

This approach is most effective when decision-makers have access to contextualised data that’s presented in formats that are easily digestible and intuitive. This can include dashboards, graphics, or alerts. And, to be useful, the data needs to come from a centralised system that can be integrated with other applications, so information can be accessed across the entire business by anyone that needs it.

For manufacturers, ERP and MES integrate data across the entire product lifecycle. This gives everyone in the organisation real-time, actionable information and insights. Importantly, organisations can filter the data so people see what’s relevant to them according to their job function. This helps overcome those issues around overwhelming amounts of data, providing a clear and uncluttered picture of what each person needs to know.

The results can offer significant opportunities for improvement in organisations. For example, a manufacturer can use the information to detect utilisation rates for assembly lines, then act to push those rates up, saving costs and increasing capacity.

Organisations need to stop seeing the deluge of data as a challenge to be solved and start understanding the opportunities it creates. By applying the right analytics and pushing information to each member of the organisation according to their roles, businesses can realise significant cost savings, efficiencies, and competitive advantages, which, ultimately, lead to increased profits.  

(1) https://www.cisco.com/c/en/us/solutions/collateral/service-provider/visual-networking-index-vni/white-paper-c11-741490.html#_Toc529314178  
(2) https://www.campaignmonitor.com/blog/email-marketing/2018/03/shocking-truth-about-how-many-emails-sent/  
(3) https://www.campaignmonitor.com/blog/email-marketing/2018/03/shocking-truth-about-how-many-emails-sent/  
(4) The research for the Global Growth Index was conducted by Morar Consulting on behalf of Epicor in December 2017. The research questioned 2,450 business decision makers and employees in businesses in 14 countries across the globe, about their growth performance in the last 12 months.