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Route to Market & Supply Chain Blog

FMCG Supply Chain: Do you use data or information?

Posted by Dave Jordan on Thu, Aug 27, 2015

Who coined “Big Data”? How did we get there without normal sized data, slightly larger data, chubby data and bordering on big data? People working in or associated with Supply Chains seem obsessed by data yet data itself actually tells you nothing. Really, not a lot apart from the fact that something is being measured or calculated.

Firstly, a couple of information irritations. If you need to renew your UK passport (must be similar for other countries) you need to have your identity confirmed by someone in a certain profession, e.g. doctor, teacher etc and be a person of “good standing in their community”. The allowed list of professions includes Bank Officials which baffles me these days. Anyway, the signatory has to provide information confirming your identification and you get the passport. Information not data gets the job done.

My bank writes to me – note, sends me a letter – asking me to confirm my address! “If you know where I live why do I have to call you to confirm what you already know?” TINA as Maggie would say, there is no alternative so you have to bite your tongue and provide the information.

 sc-data-analysisIn Supply Chains the data obsession is growing. “Show me the data. How does the latest data look? Will the data protect my backside?” Data is only valuable if you know what it is measuring, what it actually means and what you need to do to change or influence an aspect of business performance. For data to be useful it must be converted into useful information and then into appropriate actions.

Someone is shouting “data is information isn’t it”? Well, no it is not and as Michael Caine insists he did not say “not a lot of people know that”.

Due to some poor forward planning by the travel department you find yourself airborne for the duration of a vital end of season relegation encounter. On leaving the plane you ask an airport worker about the big game. All he/she can tell you is that there were 4 goals scored. Is that helpful?

Certainly, the match sounds like it was entertaining but your overpaid wimpy soccer idols needed a win. The data you have been given is 100% accurate but it does not actually tell you anything about the outcome. Was it 2-2, 3-1, 1-3 or even 4-0/0-4?

When you understand the final result was 3-1 in favour of your wimps you are elated and think about kissing the moustachioed guy at security but back down just in time – that metal detector sausage could cause some damage. Instead of being as sick as a parrot you are over the moon, y’know what I mean?

You have converted the raw data into information and then into actions. In terms of actions this means you have wisely decided against kissing the Village People lookalike security guard in order to head off to quaff several pints of the foaming ale. When you only had the 4 goal data you had no idea what of the outcome.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at freedigitalphotos.net

Tags: FMCG, Dave Jordan, Performance Improvement, Supply Chain