Please mind the data gap

For businesses operating in the food & beverage industry some impacts of the pandemic, Brexit and global supply chain constraints are obvious – difficulty in sourcing raw materials, labour shortages and demand-side changes to name a few. Other aspects are less visible, or more perhaps accurately, are harder to quantify and understand; this is compounded if data only exists in fragmented blocks, siloed in disparate software applications, spreadsheets and databases. In fact, it’s not overstating it to say that problems and opportunities are often under-appreciated or missed completely as a result of poor (or old) data.  

With narrow margins of success (both commercial and operational), the ability to diagnose and evidence business problems then quickly target solutions has always been an important executive and managerial skill; but typically, the frustrations and limiting factors are not human, more the result of limited system capability or not having access to the right information at the right time.     

One of the biggest issues is data confidence and data relevance. In a recent industry survey* only 11% of businesses reported having access to data less than 1 hour old, with 1 in 6 making decisions based on data over 4 days old. This statistic stands in marked contrast to a near universal acceptance (99%) by CFOs in a 2020 Accenture survey who “Believe operating with real-time data is critical to navigating disruptions”. Addressing the need and appetite for management information in F&B businesses is an increasing challenge.   

The ideal I often hear expressed is having “one system, delivering one version of the truth at the stroke of a key”, but if this is the vision – then the reality is very different. Many businesses have created small cottage industries preparing board packs and responding to requests for ad-hoc reports; drawing data from disparate sources and tying up precious skilled resources in processing, the approach is seemingly at odds with the move towards self-service IT.  

“If only we could get the systems to talk to each another”, comes the clarion cry… and of course that’s possible. But with diverse operational and back-office needs, achieving tight software integration across ERP, MES, CRM and other Line of Business (LOB) applications is difficult, expensive and typically demands complex software development that builds in “technical debt”, further complicating future upgrades.  

The other route is to embark on wholesale system change; begin the process of choosing a new ERP/ MRP solution that delivers on all fronts – including reporting. And whilst there is undoubted value in ensuring your primary LOB application is fit for purpose and supporting the business’s growth; changing it is enormously resource hungry, and with the range of pressures faced by F&B at the moment it’s difficult to find the right time – with the whole process recently described by one experienced hand as being akin to “MOT-ing your  car whilst driving a rally”.   

What’s more, it’s often not enough – even after system refresh leaders and managers are still left with inadequate data analysis tools and the need to resort to trusty Excel, setting up yet another island of data that becomes immediately out of date.   

However, with technology like the Qlik Associative Engine, you can build a strong business intelligence solution that addresses these issues: your data is in one place, and you can create better reports that highlight the true value of the data you’ve gathered.   

Want to learn how you can do this? We’re running a ‘Lunch and Learn’ session on November 1st to demonstrate how you can use business intelligence applications, such as Qlik, to create strategic and operational decisions with real time data.

Find out more and book your place using the button below.

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Written by Darren Rafferty,