"If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it" is a phrase that is often heard in the industry and has led organizations around the world to create immense records of information; from changing parameters throughout their processes, to specific characteristics of a product sold, under the premise that by recording it they are measuring it and, therefore, they are controlling their processes.
It is mistakenly believed that storing information in a database or simply in a spreadsheet is enough to ensure "informed" decision making. However, if the data is not properly cleaned, organized and presented, these records become completely useless, and may even lead to conclusions contrary to those that would have been reached if the information had been analyzed correctly.
But how do I take advantage of the data I already have? There are definitely many ways to take advantage of the information generated in an organization, from controlling processes to identify unwanted variations, to using historical information to forecast future performance. The important part is to start working with the data to obtain new and valuable information that allows us to make better decisions.
Dealing with the amount of data stored in a company can be overwhelming at first but, for this very reason, there are a number of key points that can help you get started:
1. Define what you want to measure and why
At the beginning you will probably have an infinite number of records and thousands of variables, so the first step is to define what you want to observe so that you can narrow down the information with which you will begin your analysis. At this point you simply seek to define the indicator to monitor, regardless of the ideal value that the indicator should reach.
Once you have defined what you want to measure, it is important to identify the reason why you want to measure it. A key indicator should be one that is related to the objectives you intend to achieve. It is not worth investing time and resources in monitoring something that has no positive or negative impact on your objectives.
2. Identify what variables are needed and how they will be collected
In most cases, key indicators are composed of several individual variables, which must be collected effectively to obtain correct values. Therefore, if such information is not already stored, it is necessary to determine the collection method to be used and the mechanisms to ensure the quality of the data collected.
3. Determine the ideal value of the selected indicator
Monitoring an indicator on its own does not provide much information if there is no reference value or range to compare it to. These values are known as specifications or specification limits and are directly related to company or customer requirements. In other words, this value or range is the one you want to achieve.
However, it is highly recommended that, before setting the specifications, an analysis is also carried out to determine the actual performance of the process so that, if it is not capable of achieving the desired specifications, the necessary adjustments can be made to obtain the desired results.
4. Define how data will be presented
Finally, once the indicator to be measured, the range of acceptance and the information collected are available, they must be presented in a way that facilitates their analysis. There are multiple ways to present information such as graphs, tables and scorecards of results. The decision of which one to use will depend on factors such as the nature of the indicator, whether the data is qualitative or quantitative, if its behavior should be analyzed over time or if it is simply desired to monitor the value at a precise moment in time, among others.
As you can see, using the information generated by your company goes beyond simply recording data, but that doesn't mean it's a difficult task. The hard part is taking that first step that allows you to start monitoring them properly and using what you observe to your advantage. Once you have the right information, your team will be able to take full advantage of it and all decisions made will start to align towards the same goal.
Photo by Myriam Jessier from Unsplash: https://unsplash.com/es/fotos/eveI7MOcSmw