Business Data: What Comes after Cost and Count?

Business Data: What Comes after Cost and Count?

Published July 2015, GPOptimizer Summer Edition
By Frances Donnelly, C.Q.P.A.


The guiding documents for business performance are the balance sheet, the profit and loss statement and cash flow details. These stand the test of time for communicating a snapshot of the health of any business. They require no translations as they are in the universal language of finance. These tools have a primary focus on cost and count. This means they let you know how much of something you have (or plan to have), the cost to your organization of doing business and the value you put in (or have earned) on that business activity.

We all know the changing face of business requires data beyond these legacy documents and snapshot moments to find success. Simple snapshots of cost and count are just not frequent enough for dynamic decision-making. How then do we source instantly required data for our best decision-making beyond cost and count?

Dashboards: Certainly we are proceeding to solve a part of this information challenge with Business Intelligence dashboards. Dashboards provide more frequent slices or snapshots of our core data. Still, much of this Business Intelligence data is supported at the source by that same cost and count data that supports our legacy standards. So, without some additional effort, dashboard tools solve only a part of our total problem.

Devices: The burgeoning atmosphere of The Internet of Things provides a myriad of devices that can enable instant, or almost instant, communication. This, too, is another part of the solution. But beyond today’s weather, our best route to our next destination or today’s sales numbers the ease of access provided by these devices still may not mean better decisions. Once again this is because the data provided so instantly is still sourced in those legacy cost and count systems.


Shifting from Business Intelligence to Decision Intelligence

Businesses often rely on a staff member with terrific spreadsheet and data extraction skills to create Business Intelligence reports. Part of this reliance was because historically the tools were challenging. Another was that staff members often supplied missing data needed for complete analysis. After all you can’t compare sales performance to goal if you don’t include the goal in the analysis.

What we see is that considerable effort occurs to extract data, massage it and publish it in static reports to management. But then is management doing anything more with the information than monitoring the status quo?

In seeking access to data that moves beyond these legacy snapshots do you understand:

  1. What data you need for great decision making that is not part of your core cost and count systems?
  2. The decisions and actions you expect managers and others to take based on the performance reflected in your dashboard data?

Without addressing these requirements, your business intelligence data cannot make the transformation to decision intelligence data.

Extending Traditional Cost and Count Data to Achieve Decision Intelligence

Software solutions, like Horizons’ Quality Essentials Suite, can extend the traditional cost and count data of legacy ERP systems to capture and secure additional data needed to guide decisions. This tool allows organizations to collect a wide range of data that is not part of existing cost and count systems in an organized and structured fashion. These results can then be incorporated in traditional business intelligence dashboard gauges.

In today’s enterprises, quality assurance and quality control activities apply to every business function imaginable. We may need to monitor temperatures in a production facility, or complete off-site vendor inspections for vendor qualification requirements. There may be customer billing errors that need to be reported and tracked as non-conformances and investigated for root cause analysis. We may need to monitor execution of activities for product safety and easily access records demonstrating conformance.

These wide ranging needs for data beyond cost and count are supported with nine data types for use in reporting the results or outcomes of testing, processing steps or other actions. These data types support a range of information capture from numeric data with precision up to five places of decimals, to dates and times. Capability for text content in the form of predefined lists, which reduce opportunities for human variation, to true/false selections or unlimited text input, ensures fullness and accuracy of reporting on most any observable or required result or event.

Of particular interest to most organizations is that the structural architecture of the software is designed to support defining records for a wide range of events or data collection points customized to the end users business environments. Result data can be captured or performance specifications defined for almost any business action desired. It can be applied to grading vendor performance or tracking vendor lot numbers, it can support defining process steps for customer credit approvals or to monitor lead time when responding to customer inquiries.

The built-in dashboard tools ensure that access to this wide range of data, beyond the core count and cost needs, is available in real time. The nature of the toolset as part of your improvement management system means you and your team will be empowered to go beyond the monitoring of data from moment to moment to achieve the desired decision intelligence for your business.

To learn more about transforming your cost and count data to achieve decision intelligence, view our short video Decision Intelligence – Data that Goes Beyond Cost and Count.

© Horizons International, LLC
Published GPOptimizer July 2015