Author:Chris Duncalf

March 10, 2022

3 Reasons Information Maturity Should be on the Menu

Are you sure they are mushrooms?

4 min read

Create meaningfull analytical reports that people will read, or consume, equip people with the correct tools to do so, and ensure the data is of good quality.

I have always thought that the creation and provision of analytics, information or insight shares many traits with the food industry.

Perhaps it was those data “cookbooks” I was reading years ago. Nonetheless, whether it was my early NHS career working with the ingredients in the data warehouse or later as a head of information, when I was more occupied with what was on the menu and making sure everyone was served, the concept of consumption was always key.

Making a product with the sole goal of consumption requires more than just a good chef. We also need eager, hungry customers. In addition we need to provide them with the right tools / utensils and use the best ingredients, so let’s have a look at all 3 courses.

1) Compliments to the chef

A good meal may get a reaction or feedback, and rest assured a bad one will (my last and final attempt at a cake!). However, when it comes to analytics, we often see consumption without any action, sometimes even a complete lack of consumption. I’m certain that many reading this will recognise the scenario of “how to streamline the workload”, do we:

  • a) stop publishing / sending - see who rings up

  • b) put a password on it - see who rings up

  • c) ask them - wait for them all to say “we still need it”

Hands up who heads for lunch every Wednesday, buys a sandwich then just leaves it on their desk? No? Yet we know there are multitudes of reports published in portals / inboxes that go unread.

This isn’t about housekeeping (though you should be doing that). It’s about how the provider and consumer work together to create meaningful analytics that people want to consume, that elicit a response and facilitate action.

2) Spaghetti Bolognese with your hands

I’m going to subtitle this one “the first time you had lobster”, as there is an important distinction here (I’ve never had lobster by the way):

  • Spaghetti with your hands – this is about not equipping people with the right tools. In BI terms this could be about lack of access, software or training.

  • First time you had lobster – this is about skills and knowledge. Can they successfully navigate their way through this without creating an almighty mess? Do they know how to read an SPC or box whisker? Do they understand confidence intervals and significance?

We wouldn’t set up our restaurant and fail to give our diners the appropriate utensils. However, we would expect our diners to possess a rudimentary level of skill, (the ability to eat?) whilst being equally happy to assist or educate if needed.

In respect of information maturity, both parties need to bring something to the table, with a personal responsibility to educate themselves and support each other in the pursuit of a better experience. Simply enabling self-service does not guarantee self-sufficiency.

3) Only the best ingredients

A chef must work with the ingredients they have. They can select the best from what they have, tidy up the presentation of some items, but they don’t have the luxury of defaulting missing items to mushrooms.

In our restaurant the consumer is not responsible for the ingredients. However, in our BI world, the consumer is often the owner of the data (though they may disagree) or at least have responsibility for the users entering or submitting. Whilst good quality data does not guarantee robust and reliable analytics, poor data certainly prevents it.

Obviously, data quality processes are critical, not just in creating visibility of errors and issues, but offering the ability to escalate issues back to source for rectification. I am from the real world (really) so I know it’s not quite that simple, but my point here is that we yet again need the provider and consumer to work together to drive improvements. With the right care and attention, we may just find our default mushroom turns out to be a pineapple!

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