“With data collection, ‘the sooner the better’ is always the best answer.” – Marissa Mayer
Marissa Mayer, the former President and CEO of Yahoo, has data on her mind the same as many others, across not only the technology industry, but increasingly across all industries. We are constantly being reminded that data is the 21st-century equivalent of oil and that every business will soon become a data business. The process of accessing data, whilst it may be subject to increasing scrutiny from a governance perspective, has not particularly been the challenge given the sheer amount of data that we have to work with, rather it is the process of understanding what to do with it and how to get value and insight from data that remains the key focus.
However, there is another challenge: one of timeliness. You have got your technology platform sorted, chosen your business intelligence tool, employed a data analytics team and consulted with SMEs across your organisation to understand what are the important questions that need answering, only to find that the insights gained are derived from what happened six weeks ago or even six months ago. The global Covid-19 pandemic has demonstrated that situations change rapidly, a future course cannot reliably be charted based on past experience and you have to adapt to what is happening now. Operating in the supply chain industry, EV Cargo witnesses the disruption that can be caused by events as they happen. The ability to manage that disruption and protect our customers requires great people, but those people must also have access to the very latest information to make informed decisions and take positive action.
Of course, real-time data is not just about preventing issues before they happen, it’s also about seizing opportunities. Imagine the GPS in your car informing you about an upcoming traffic build-up on your journey the data available to you at that point is not going to impact upon the problem that already exists, but it does allow you to seize an opportunity to take a different route. Insights have historically been supported by batch-style analytics, where it takes a period of time to yield results; a shift to real-time data offers the potential to get ahead of the curve. Real-time data moves us away from descriptive and predictive analytics. We are no longer asking what happened, or trying to predict what will happen based on historic trends, we are showing what is happening now, helping to inform what actions we should take.
At EV Cargo Technology the challenge is about how quickly we can get reliable data to our customers, presented in a way that is insightful, to expedite the decision-making process, or to automate that process entirely through intelligent machine-learning data models. Cloud services for computational power, third-party APIs for external data sources and intuitive data visualisation are at the foundation of our intelligent SaaS products.
There are inherent challenges in the use of real-time data. Its successful use depends upon highly available and low-response-time systems, which themselves have cost implications and the trade-offs therein. It also requires an understanding of what are the most relevant data sources at any given time – there is no value in having built a reliable and fast integration with data source A, if market or business factors then suddenly change, such that data source B is now more insightful.
The ability to effectively understand and manage data puts responsibility back on to the people within an organisation. Seamlessly integrating data-driven software into our customers’ environment to deliver everyday value is what energises the people in our organisation, the constant striving for further innovative ways to work with data and to understand its untapped potential is what will continue to drive us forward into the future.