“O data, data, wherefore art thou data?”
I won’t pretend like dealing with data management issues is as tragic as the most woefully tragic love story of all time, Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo & Juliet’. However, if you are a business owner or manager without a proper data solution, it can be. And, as this quote suggests, searching for your long-lost data is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to managing large amounts of it.
In this context, data is all the information businesses have at their disposal.
In a shift-based business, the most important data points revolve around certain key areas:
- Staff (employee records)
- Scheduling (absence reports, requests for time off, amount of hours scheduled, amount of hours worked for each employee, etc.)
- Communication (employee interaction)
- Hiring (employee turnover rates, application, hiring rates, viewing rates)
- Finances (sales figures, labor costs, payroll, etc.)
Not mentioned here is analytical data, which is used for measuring or keeping track of key performance indicators (KPIs) with the specific purpose of improving the business. This topic will be revisited in a later post.
With all this information to keep track of, the first question that should come to mind is: how are you managing your data? In this context, the most important factors at play are data accessibility, accuracy, redundancy, and security. Do you have all of these covered? Let’s see.
Who has access to your data? Are you able to set restrictions on database access?
Are you able to monitor database activity at all times?
Where is your data located, and in what form? Ex: paper, electronic (in a computer file, online), memory (I hope, for your sake, this isn’t the case), etc.
Can your data be accessed anywhere?
Is your data accurate?
Are your data-gathering methods effective?
Is any of your data repeated? Do you have multiple iterations or copies of the same data?
Is your data secure? In the event of a data breach, what measures, if any, are in place to prevent or minimize any damage?
After hearing from various business owners talk about their data management issues, it seemed like there was a connection between the situation of Romeo and that of the average shift-based business owner today. If one simply replaces Romeo’s search for Juliet with the business owner’s search for data, the similarities become clear.
The story: You spend days and hours thinking about your data, searching for it underneath piles of files, at a coworkers’ apartment or at any of your 6 business locations (Romeo searches for Juliet).
After what seems like a never-ending search, you end up finding it, but it’s in a place you didn’t expect, in the back pocket of your corduroy khakis you wore that one time (in Romeo’s case, in the cellar of a church).
However, the data you do end up finding is in an unrecognizable state (like Juliet’s lifeless body), crumpled up, missing pieces and in a writing no linguist could ever decipher. You publish and disseminate the data anyways, because it’s the only source you have.
Unfortunately, you failed to recognize that the data was filled with errors, which has created a mass of confusion in your business (Romeo is confused: “Is Juliet asleep, or dead?”). Blinded by your attachment to the data, you make a series of impulsive decisions, which ultimately leads to awful business decisions due to incorrect reporting; your business is in shambles (Romeo drinks a vial of poison).
The bad news is that this story ends in tragedy. The good news is that you’re actually the director of the play; you can choose what happens next.
Believe it or not, one way to address all of these issues is to invest in a centralized, cloud-based data source.
What does that mean?
Centralization means that all of your data is collected, stored and accessed from one source, but is accessible from many points. Cloud computing refers to using software or services through an internet connection, for which the computing occurs in a different location but is delivered to you through the Internet (Schaffner, 2016).
Having a single, centralized cloud-based source of data allows you to:
- Access your data anytime, anywhere: as long as you aren’t in the middle of the Sahara desert (i.e. not connected to the Internet), you’ll be able to access your data. This is especially useful if you own multiple business locations, and must communicate with a larger network of people.
- Increase collaboration: better and quicker communication makes for a better workplace!
- Reduce the likelihood of human error: because data usually comes in troves, human error is frequent and virtually unavoidable. Most errors come as a result of manually inputting information, keeping information on paper or other physical sources. A cloud-based software allows you to input the information easily (and in a calligraphy, everyone can understand) and hopefully, only once.
- Comply with government standards and laws: because much of this information is necessary for the filing of taxes (among others) and is subject to audit, it’s in everyone’s interest to have precise and easily accessible data.
- Simplify your data: having 1 format for all your information makes it easy to understand for everyone. Additionally, you no longer need to worry about whether your files will convert to the format you need.
- Eliminate or significantly reduce redundant data: redundant data is the single biggest source of confusion.
- Easily make modifications: since all of your data is in one place, you’ll spend significantly less time making changes.
- Make data instantly available to all your desired recipients: all you need is internet access and a friendly invite to your colleagues!
- Learn the system quickly, and teach it to others: Instead of having to learn multiple systems, managers and team members need only understand the workings of the one central database.
- Save time: since all of the information is available in one database, you don’t need to spend hours transcribing and re-transcribing information in multiple files or systems.
- Never lose your data again: How many times have you searched for that old tax return from 2012, hidden under mounds of files? A cloud-based database allows you to back up your files, further reducing the risk of complete loss.
- Free up space: Is your desk a leaning tower of Pisa? Get rid of the old, outdated stack of files in your office; feel free to enter the 21st century while you’re at it!
Schaffner, Adam. “What Does the Cloud Mean and Why You Should Care.” Thomson Reuters, 4 Nov. 2016, tax.thomsonreuters.com/blog/onesource/what-does-the-cloud-mean-and-why-you-should-care/.