Who coined the term “Big Data”? How did we get there without tiny data, ordinary 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 tells you absolutely 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 too) you need to have your identity confirmed by someone in a certain profession, e.g. doctor, teacher and be a person of “good standing in their community”. The allowed list of professions includes Bankers which baffles me these days. Anyway, the signatory must provide information confirming your identification and you get the passport. Information and not data gets the job done.
My bank writes to me – note, sends me a physical 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 Thatcher would say, there is no alternative so you must bite your tongue and provide the information.
In 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 means and what you need to do to change or influence an aspect of future 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 never said, “not a lot of people know that”. Consider this example.
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 football game. All he/she can tell you is that 4 goals were scored. Is that helpful?
Certainly, the match sounds like it was entertaining but your overpaid wimpy football 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 a diabolical 4-0/0-4?
When you understand the final score was 3-1 in favour of your football 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 that raw goals scored data into information and then into celebratory actions. In terms of actions this means you have wisely decided against kissing the Village People lookalike security guard to head off to quaff several pints of the foaming ale. When you only had the 4-goal data you had no idea of the outcome.
Increasingly you need to turn to analytics to understand what is actually happening in your Supply Chain why it is happening and most importantly, what needs to change for future business success.
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