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18 December 2018
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9 October 2017 | John Bowen

Consultant John Bowen discusses how to make our lives easier when dealing with lots of data

Forty-five years ago I was a stock controller managing a couple of thousand items, each of which had a stock card on which the stock level was recorded daily, weekly or monthly depending on how fast we sold the item. Information was, literally, at my fingertips. 

Scroll forward 20 years and I was designing systems to take point-of-sale data and work backwards down the supply chain to raw material suppliers, the aim being to automate use of data as much as possible so that the action of someone at the checkout or cash desk scanning a product’s barcode would be the only human intervention in capturing data. 

These days we have massive amounts of data available from automated systems and one of our challenges is finding ways to use it to make our lives easier.

The first problem is that all processed data is history and it can be too easy to get hung up on looking backwards. Sure we need to be able to measure and monitor performance, but one of the best uses of data is predicting the future. We’ve been able to do that for various trends for some time and it gets better year on year. As long as we understand what we are looking at.

Knowing where the information has come from and what it means is crucial and while automated data capture has moved us on from the days of ‘garbage in, garbage out’ if we don’t understand what we are looking at when reviewing data then any use we make of it will probably lead us into trouble.

With so much data available we often overlook one of the finest sources open to us and one that we can all rely on; looking at and listening to what is happening around us. Your eyes and ears (and sometimes in FM your nose) are still very valuable data capture devices. Of course we need the systems that capture, process and analyse data for us, but to do our best we should use all of the sources available to us.

John Bowen is an FM consultant