Probably all of us will agree with the statement that the broader is the view of data, the more accurate are business decisions. However, in the IT world this obviousness is not always so easy to fulfill. Many data from IT systems are presented to users in too narrow context, without correlation with other information. These data usually already exist in the company, but are in another system, in another database or in Excel on another employee’s local disk 😊. Lack of data centralization and access to them during decision making process causes that not always the best possible business decisions are made. It is because of the lack of possibility to look at the data in a wider perspective. At the same time, we deprive ourselves of a chance to catch irregularities, risks, or the need to run additional verification activities.
This area can be improved by comprehensive business reports that can pull data from multiple sources or IT systems. This data is then presented in a standardized, graphical way with dynamic filters, allowing for flexible processing. If such reports function is developed and used in a company, it is certainly helpful. However, it does not address one very important aspect. It is the presentation of a wide context of data in a more proactive way, i.e., at the moment of the need to decide. For example, on a form displayed to a user in the process of acceptance, registration, or verification of a business case. At this point, it is important, to build a 360-degree perspective on the business data.
Why is it important to look at business data in a broad perspective?
It is worth to mention and highlight the many advantages that come with presenting a broad context of related business data, connected with the currently presented or processed information.
The first and most important advantage is the ability to create a 360-degree interface for a business user. An interface in which a given piece of information, e.g.: client, project, contract, or contractor, presents all other related information in addition to the basic data of this object. A few examples below:
- Customer card, that is a “CRM” view, in which it is possible to present all completed contacts with the Customer, signed agreements, purchased services or products, Customer’s activities in marketing campaigns or registered Customer’s requests, etc.
- Contracts in the Central Registry of Contracts – in addition to the contracts contained in the application, it is possible to present all invoices related to a particular contract, together with the level of saturation of the contract budget, as well as related orders, the schedule of project tasks, etc.
- Contractor card – may present all related contracts, orders, contractor’s evaluations, submitted offers, contacts, etc.
- Project file – apart from the schedule and tasks from projects, it can contain all reported risks, opportunities, related contracts, maps with location, data of related contractors, etc.
Efficient decision making
Often the internal approval of a contract, cost invoice, demand or investment application is carried out without full knowledge of the actual financial or business situation of the company. That is why it is good to present contextual, up-to-date data at the very moment of acceptance. An example can be the presentation of budget saturation at the moment of accepting another demand or, for accepting a cost invoice, the presentation of the payment deadline from the contract or the current status of the contract settlement.
Lack of a full set of data also affects the extension of the acceptance stage itself. Often it is not caused by the user’s tardiness but by the lack of properly built, broad perspective at the moment of decision making.
Whether to accept a new purchase for a given investment – we do not know. So, let’s show on the form the budget saturation from the investment on specific data: annually, quarterly or monthly. Show a comparison to the prices for the same indexes purchased in recent years. Let’s show the terms agreed with this Contractor, let’s show the schedule of investments.
At the end it is worth to simply display historical acceptances and rejections on a similar purchase request. All this can allow you to make a right decision very quickly.
Catching risks proactively
In many processes which are part of a large undertaking – a project or an investment – it is important to catch risks (and opportunities) at the earliest possible stage in order to effectively manage and counteract them. An extensive presentation of data from other processes or historical data, e.g., at the registration stage of a given project or investment, can be very helpful in this respect. An example can be the presentation of materialized risk in a similar project, or investment to the one currently registered, or the presentation of the estimated profitability of the project based on historical data.
Mechanisms for additional data verification
In certain business situations it is important to automatically or manually run verification sub-processes which checks newly entered data in the systems. An example can be a 360 verification of a new Contractor with whom we want to sign a contract. Such verification subprocess should analyze all available information from the Internet, CSO, Whitelist, VIES, eKRS and help to decide. Moreover, when signing a contract with a subcontractor, we can, for example, present the conditions agreed with our client in the project contract to translate our risks to the subcontractor.
Detection of anomalies in data
In the vast amount of data processed daily by a single employee, it’s hard to detect anomalies in that data or the process itself. This is where a broad perspective can become a game-changer. An example might be a notification sent to a process manager informing them of a much longer, compared to historical, approval time run by a particular user. Such a situation may be dictated by several factors, which we have described in the article Acceptance in business processes, but it may also be a signal indicating the need to verify the process or the quality of work of the employed person.
Another example concerns the purchasing process. By analyzing and comparing offers from a given period, the system can catch price changes of a given item offered by the same contractor. Thanks to this, there is a chance of more effective negotiations by the purchasing department.
Improving internal processes
Another aspect is speeding up and streamlining processes. Using the Digital Mailroom application and the registration of incoming documents as an example: on the form we present the last documents from a given Contractor assigned to a particular user. This helps the authorizing officers to allocate correspondence to the appropriate person – the owner of the letter.
Creating a coherence and proper linkage between data
In any large organization, an important issue is the quality of the underlying data. Here it is useful to take advantage of correlations with other related business data. This is especially useful when introducing new master data: a new contractor, a new material index, a new initiative… Presenting similar records to a newly recorded one on a form helps to catch duplicates, update existing data, and correct errors. All this affects the quality of data, and thus the quality of company management.
The article lists the many benefits of building a 360-degree perspective on business data. Probably no one needs to be convinced of their validity. However, it is worth remembering that creating such a broad perspective can be difficult. A lot of data does not exist in a digital and structured form (described with dictionary fields, not a scan of a document 😊). Building an entire process can take a long time and can only be possible after implementing several projects around specific data or documents. Therefore, it is very important to plan and gradually build this perspective, 360-degree, at the very beginning of the project. One should, starting with small steps, broaden the connection and perspective on business data, giving more and more value to the business from the digital transformation of our processes.