For anyone who saw the irreverent film, Freakonomics (“the hidden side of everything”), knows that we’re now collecting data on a vast scale. The stories that are emerging from all this data are remarkable. Who knew that, with this accumulation of data, we could prove Sumo wrestlers were cheating or that the reasons politicians cited for falling crime rates were wrong?
At the TMW 2012 Transforum this week in Orlando (attended by 1,700 vendors and customers), a key theme was, “how do we draw intelligence from data?” According to TMW Senior Project Manager, Michael Malecha in his session on business improvement, “We have 86% more data than even just two years ago, but how do we draw meaning from it?” He also stated that 93% of CEOs believe they are losing opportunities from a lack of tools to handle this data.
Since all data sets contain noise, the secret is in discerning the noise from the signal. The signal, of course, refers to meaningful trends.
His cautionary message is simple:
- If we treat noise as a signal, we spin our wheels;
- If we treat signal as noise, we miss opportunities.
Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee (speaking neither as politician nor as pastor and pictured above) decried the state of personal accountability when he said, “We’ve created a monster”. Sometimes, the gathering of data can be seen as a monster—Big Brother tracking our every move. But business intelligence (knowing how to draw meaningful conclusions from information), serves the needs of small to medium companies just as it does large—if they know what to do with it.
In order to optimize fleet operations and enhance financial performance, fleet managers often turn to automation. Initially, the desire is for dot-on-a-map visibility of their vehicles. Using GPS/AVL technology, they collect location and sometimes diagnostic data in real-time. As the data accumulates, managers may want to report on it, such as exception reporting to filter out only data that doesn’t conform to expected norms. Data then starts to fulfill a more complex need: analyzing trends to facilitate better cost projections (such as optimizing fuel usage), and route planning. Finally, with data streaming in from multiple third-party sources, they can integrate information to discover complex relationships between external events and internal actions. This is the essence of business intelligence.
TMW CEO, David Wangler, in the general session keynote speech emphasized this point when he said, “It’s no longer the big who eat the small, but the fast who eat the slow”. In other words, becoming leaner and more efficient enables us to outmanoeuver the competition. Your GPS/AVL fleet tracking solution is sending you real-time data that not only provides you with visibility here and now, but down the road, will enable you to see trends and anticipate opportunities.
Perhaps as a fitting representation of the need to draw intelligence from data, the TMW awards gala was warmed up by Jean Francois, the Quebec-based visual artists who drew fantastical pictures for everyone while dinner was served. Accompanied by pulsing rock music, the images appeared abstract and confusing at first until he ceremoniously turned them over (new right-side up) and delighted everyone with images of the Statue of Liberty and a long-haul truck.