Three ways to obtain meaningful data that support quick decisions

Lee Dittmar, a principal with Deloitte Consulting, talks about the “three V’s” with regard to the struggles of businesses to put meaningful data into action.

The volume, velocity and variety of data are increasing, and businesses often aren’t prepared to take advantage of it. In some cases, antiquated systems prevent them from effectively using data.

In an increasingly complex manufacturing environment, businesses need to have mechanisms in place to collect and analyse high-quality data and confidently make good decisions.

“What you can do today was impossible even three years ago,” Dittmar said in a telephone interview. “So you now have these external drivers. You have the need to be better at tapping into your data and understanding what it says; to be able to answer questions faster; to be able to answer questions that you couldn’t answer before; and deal with a multitude of externality.”

Dittmar said using data to make faster and better decisions is the hottest issue he has worked with in 32 years of business consulting. His report, “Analytics Driven: Using Analytics to Help Gain a Competitive Edge in Manufacturing”, explains that many manufacturing executives have invested heavily in their information technology infrastructure in the last 10 years in hopes of creating shorter response times.

But manufacturers often believe their organisations just move too slowly. Inadequate systems and poor data and partner integrations are standing in the way of good decision-making in manufacturing, according to “In Pursuit of Operational Excellence: Accelerating Business Change Through Next-Generation ERP”, a white paper published in January by IDC Manufacturing Insights.

In IDC’s worldwide survey, manufacturing professionals were asked: “What could be done to improve your decision-making capability?” More than 80% of respondents cited speeding up business processes.

In the same survey, failure to support fast decision-making capabilities was the enterprise resource planning (ERP) system weakness that respondents most commonly cited. Manufacturers most commonly said they need an ERP system that reacts faster to the changes the business needs, streamlines processes and achieves operational excellence.

Dittmar said the manufacturing sector traditionally has been good at automation and information management in terms of building processes to make things, so in some ways it has a head start on other sectors. But the supply chain is changing. Manufacturers that have long thought of retailers as their customers now are much more interested in the needs of end users.

“The dynamics change,” Dittmar said. “New forces and factors come into play. You get issues around sustainability and environmental and product life-cycle management and the engineering in between.”

Because emerging markets are starting with new technology and systems, they have, in some cases, been better at implementing data analytics than more established markets, Dittmar said. The competitive spirit in the US business sector is moving US corporations forward, too, he added.

Nonetheless, he said he can’t name a single client who’s completely satisfied with the company’s ability to get the right information to the right people at the right time. He lists a few key actions in using data to spur quick, good decisions:

  • Start with the questions that matter most. Use data to determine the questions that, if answered, would be the most valuable to your business.

  • Embrace being data driven, and demand business plans supported by data.

  • Ignore technology changes at your own peril, and embrace the art of the possible enabled by today’s technologies.

“There’s a whole list of these things that are, if you will, changing the game,” Dittmar said. “Even if everything was good enough before these, the convergence of these forces and factors are causing the need to re-think what you have.”

Ken Tysiac ( is a CGMA Magazine senior editor.