Is a lack of trust in data holding us back?

In this edition of the Field Service News Think Tank Sessions, our focus was on digging deeper into a finding within a recent FSN Research study that revealed that 57% of field service companies surveyed stated that while they were able to access asset data, they felt they were not leveraging that data effectively.

 

As always in our Think Tank sessions, this initial starting point for the discussion led down many interesting avenues of debate, all of which are summarised in the executive briefing report currently available for a limited time on our forever-free FSN FREE subscription tier.

 

In this feature, based on a section from that report, we explore whether it is a lack of trust in data that is holding us back from truly being able to leverage and unlock the powerful insight we could have within our asset data and how we can overcome this issue…

 

One of the crucial points we kept returning to within the discussion was that all too often, there is a lack of trust in the data across different business silos. This lack of confidence in the data appears to be preventing organisations from fully embracing their digital transformation projects. Perhaps this is a crucial reason why so many fail. However, is that lack of trust warranted, and if so, what can be done to overcome it?

 

As Chris Hird, Editor, Field Service News, commented.

 

“A couple of people have mentioned, having run the data through these various processes when an answer comes out, you can’t trust the data. The critical question those in that situation must ask themselves is whether it is because they genuinely cannot trust the data. After all, the information and the data are fundamentally wrong, or is it more of a case that you don’t like the answer that’s coming out the other end?

 

“Because the way to overcome the problem in both scenarios is very different.”

 

“I think one of the most significant issues that we haven’t spoken about today and is often the elephant in the room is understanding who owns the data,” Dave Hart, Managing Partner, Field Service Associates, added.

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"One of the biggest challenges I faced when in global operational roles was data governance" - Mark Wilding, ServiceMax

“Who has responsibility internally? From my experience, when I ran a service business, we had a master data management team, and having somebody in the company that owns the data is essential.

 

“Most organisations I talk to buy a big piece of software to help them solve all their problems. Then you see them two years later, and they say, ‘we’re not getting the value we expected.’ They thought the application would do more for them, but more often than not, it’s because they can’t trust what’s coming out of it. In these scenarios, often, nobody owns the data internally, so nobody is accountable.

 

“That was always interesting for me to note because I’d speak to these orgainisations and ask who owns the data? Who has responsibility for making sure it is well managed in their organisation? All too often I’d see a lot of people shaking their head saying, ‘well, kind of nobody does in our organisation.'”

 

Even amongst those organisations that are really at the pinnacle of effective data use, such as medical technology manufacturer Elekta, there can be discrepancies between how data is handled across different business units. As Daniel Kingham, Vice President and Head of Service Innovation and Design, Elekta, explained.

 

“We have pockets of very clear ownership and pockets where ownership of the data is completely distributed, and nobody’s accountable, where everybody can edit and change information which can be a problem certainly.

 

“Also, in the past we’ve definitely fallen down the trap of thinking the system will solve all of our process problems and the result of that is today processes need to be evolved, because without good processes no system will overcome these issues.”

 

It seems that the issue is often a result of inefficient or inadequate processes. When data is required across different business units, ownership and thus responsibility can fall between the cracks. However, even within departments, if processes and protocols are not clearly defined, individuals, while working with the best of intentions, cause further data duplication, muddying the waters further.

 

“Another challenge that often gets overlooked is the human aspect. If someone doesn’t trust the validity of data for whatever reason, the human instinct is to create their own, because that is a record they can trust,” commented Mark Homer, Managing Partner, Field Service Associates.

 

For Mark Wilding, VP of Global Customer Transformation, ServiceMax, the answer and perhaps the most significant barrier to effective data usage lies in ensuring global data governance.

 

“I think one of the biggest challenges I faced when in global operational roles was data governance,” Wilding stated.

 

“You may have the same master data sitting in different systems. It could be other versions of ERP. It could be Oracle, SAP Microsoft Dynamics; you’re using the data, but fundamentally, it’s global data, its global standard partners, etc. However, if you don’t have a global governance strategy, you end up with multiple variations on the data.

 

“Then, of course, if you try and use an analytical tool like Tableau or Power BI to create insights across these different geographies, regions or applications, you can’t because the consistency of the data and in different pockets becomes an issue.

 

“That was, for me, one of the biggest challenges, and I believe companies need to try to overcome this by creating a definition of what the data is. What is the data definition? What are the boundaries, the governance, and the audit policies?

 

“How do we define the validation rules around these aspects to try and create the ability to utilise the data effectively so that even if one country is using Infor and another country is on the Dynamics platform, for example, it doesn’t matter. Even if they have their own data warehouse that sits within each of those two ERPs, at least the consistency of the data is controlled and governed at a global level.

"Start by demonstrating what proper, effective use of the data can produce, and then continue building upon that in an iterative form." - Clinten van der Merwe, Smiths Detection

“I think it’s imperative to do this both for improving the effective use of data today, but also looking to the future, with possible future growth, if you acquire companies that automatically creates further problems. You bolt on another set of data, and there is another set of behaviours and definitions, and it’s a real challenge for you once again to reach any meaningful insights.

 

“You end up with fuzzy logic everywhere, so absolutely a strategic plan around defining data is needed for today and to future proof tomorrow. When it comes to data, you can’t react to it if you can’t believe it.”

 

Indeed, establishing clear parameters that allow data alignment is critical within any organisation that seeks to access data within different locations or applications.

 

However, as Clinten van der Merwe, EMEA Service Director, Smiths Detection, suggests, another critical issue is that companies trying to achieve too much, too fast with data end up getting quickly surrounded by duplicated data they don’t have faith in.

 

“Ultimately, it starts with how you define what it is you want to get from the data.

 

“The rabbit hole effect that many companies are going through is that they may have an ERP system, for example, but at an operational level, there is a lack of trust in the data in the ERP. Then you have another screw-on system, you add this on, you read the data, now you’ve got two different datasets, where you don’t trust the data.

 

“So then you add another third system because you still don’t like the definition that these first two give you. The result of this is that then you become entrenched in a silo. Your service is in a silo; your sales team don’t like the data because they don’t trust it, your programmes don’t like it, and your financial team don’t like it. It is not a good scenario at all, but I think this is where many companies are.

 

“I think what we really need is the solution providers really guiding some of these service companies in terms of better understanding of where it is they want to go and helping them start with a little bit smaller projects. Start by demonstrating what proper, effective use of the data can produce, and then continue building upon that in an iterative form. I think with that type of approach it becomes much more achievable to break down the silos that otherwise may form.”

 

What seems apparent, though, from the varied and insightful commentary from the group is that for organisations that identify a robust truth within their data, there is undoubtedly much to be gained. However, as we discuss within the full report, this is not an insurmountable task.

 

If you wish to read more from the group on how we can approach this from a variety of angles, then download the full executive briefing now (available for a limited period on our forever free subscription tier FSN FREE)

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Data usage note: By accessing this content you consent to the contact details submitted when you registered as a subscriber to fieldservicenews.com to be shared with the listed sponsor of this premium content ServiceMax who may contact you for legitimate business reasons to discuss the content of this briefing report.

 


 

Many thanks to our Think Tank members present during this session. 

 

  • Sumair Dutta, Senior Director, Product Marketing – Customer and Market Insight, ServiceMax
  • Mark Homer, Managing Partner, Field Service Associates
  • Rajat Kakar, Managing Director, QuickWork EMEA
  • Chris Hird, Editor, Field Service News
  • Dave Hart, Managing Partner, Field Service Associates
  • Daniel Kingham, Vice President and Head of Service Innovation and Design, Elekta
  • Mark Homer, Managing Partner, Field Service Associates
  • Mark Wilding, VP Global Customer Transformation, ServiceMax
  • Terence Horsman, COO, Orca Service Technologies/MCFT
  • Clinten van der Merwe, EMEA Service Director, Smiths Detection

 


 

All members of the Field Service Think Tanks are speaking from their own personal opinions which are not necessarily reflective of the organisations they work for. 

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