how's your data lookin'?
04 November, 2021 - 6 min read
how's your data lookin'?
Data. Data. Data.
We can't seem to escape hearing about data these days, can we?
This simple and abstract concept is littering everything: interrupting our daily lives, concerns about hacking, what's being sold by who, and... should I really give a shit about it?
Like many overplayed words and ideas, the more we hear it repeated the less value we find. Quickly it becomes something that we tune out and pay less, and less attention to.
Here's the thing though. The enterprise world is going to be defined more by data in the next 5 years, than it has the last 70.
Really, I'm not being hyperbolic
One of the things that Alan Greenspan ( for the uninitiated, the former iconic chair of the Federal Reserve ) did to make money and a name for himself very early in his career, was endlessly pour over data coming in from every tiny detail.
Tracking metal purchases and being able to extrapolate out how much manufacturing was being done, or ordered, by the federal government and in turn, be able to make better bets on companies that supplied that or used it as a raw material. For everything from fighter planes, to bombs and trucks.
The same is done on an episode of Silicon Valley, to predict how a locust year would effect crops, and where they could offset the commodity market. Thus making a profit to keep a start-up afloat.
Such stories are a dime a dozen in the financial world, this is typically how many traders make their dimes into dollars. Even that fictitious scene from a television show, is based off of a real deal orchestrated by Bill gates.
But in today's world, the amount of factors that can underpin an industry are only growing more complex, more interdependent, more difficult to see.
Supply chain anyone?
What's effecting the current growing number of ships off of the Ports of LA and Long Beach, are any varying degree of not having enough containers stacked upon one another, not having enough empty chassis to move containers off of, employee shortages, rail shortages, etc etc.
It's not just one thing, but a lovely storm of many things crowding together at once.
How this industry could have prepared for it, or how your company could prepare for any worst case scenario or even better, opportunity, all comes in to how you handle your data.
abstract data, real results
Spreadsheets are great, they really are. Being able to move around them quickly, many of us have become so used to using them that to an outside observer we look like wizards.
They have their place, and I'm going to be very bullish on this, they're not going away anytime soon. But what they don't allow for, is systems to read them and then take action on it, outside of what a human is doing, or maybe because of what a human is doing.
If that action is to trigger an event that alerts someone, stores the change to be reported on, or serves up a lovely visualization that you can view between injections of coffee as you start your day-- there's endless possibilities.
The pace of the economy, I'm being bold here but stay with me, is only going to speed up. Industries like insurance that have been for a long time insulated from outside pressure are now feeling the heat from tech companies coming to shake things up like Lemonade.
And that's just one industry. Think about how retail got shaken up with the pandemic, but to lift the veil up, that was only an increase to the digital trend that was already existing. Look around you wherever you are while reading this, and every industry that is powering what's around you, is now affected by a digital disruption currently happening, or just starting to take off.
The pace of the digital disruption is only going to pick up speed.
embrace the tech invasion
If you can't beat it, then join it. Just like fossil fuels and steel powered the industrial revolution, this one is powered by data. So sure up your data resources and get them ready to power everything from alerting, visualizations, reports or when you're ready, machine learning.
here's some ways to get started
Store everything in easy to access repositories.
- Have it accessible by API, and easily available to the team members that need it
Get the people who use the data to help you define the structure.
- No one benefits from having data that needs an interpreter to make sense. How you label rows, keys, columns, should be easily read by devs and SMEs alike. It'll start to slowly instill a development culture too if you can get those two groups to start talking closely.
Start small, and build more, and more, and more.
- Get a visualization up, a report up, or just give more control on when people get what they need. Start there, and then gradually build on more. The point is to get a process and practice moving, then you'll have muscle memory and momentum to move with.
Embrace the cloud.
- There's many cloud providers out there, my personal favorite is MongoDB's Cloud Atlas. And if you want to keep it in house, you can still spin up a server with MongoDB on it and host it yourself. Either way, get it into an easily accessible, and secure, cloud to open up what is even possible with it. Hosting something on the cloud is the equivalent to moving from snail mail to email.
And the biggest one of all just start making your data useful.
Use it, or be lost
The biggest thing I'd want you to take away from this dear reader, is that if you're not seeing data that you have in your company daily, and if it's not part of your core business, you're already behind.
How long does a process take, how much money is coming in, are we on pace for our end of the quarter goal, what typically holds up this from happening, when does 'x' get done, how likely is this to complete, when will this update, etc etc.
All of this is invaluable information to drive wisdom within your company. Knowing when things happen, how they happen, will improve your operations and improve your agility to handle chaos when it occurs. Because, it will occur.
So, fill up your coffee cup, cozy up with your IT team, and find more ways to get your data in a place where it can be used.