When Bad Data Silos Happen to Good People
If you don’t know the term “data silo,” I’m sure you know the feeling. It’s the inability to find the store information you need when you need it. I’ve heard the horror stories: “I spent six weeks combing through all of our store spreadsheets and still didn’t know if the data was up to date. We had to delay a rollout. All that time and money lost,” one retailer complained to me. More than one has confided that their office makes decisions based on gut rather than fact – not because they don’t have data, but because the data was too hard to track down or of questionable accuracy.
If there’s any consolation, it happens to everyone. Even CIO Mike Giresi (formerly with retailer Tory Burch) admitted, “It’s incredibly difficult to get things done with ‘linear email.’” He further explained in a blog, “Emailing spreadsheets back and forth wasn’t enabling the speedy decision-making we need for a rapidly growing retail business. Teams couldn’t get their hands on the right information to push store development forward.”
Why do data silos happen? PC World calls out one culprit: “The silo problem is particularly common with desktop-based tools.” By the time you get from the store to your desk, you start to lose information. “The potential consequences are many,” says PC World, “time wasted arguing about whose results are right; misguided decisions; regulatory and compliance exposure; and higher cost.”
Analyst Martha Bennett told PC World that, because of data silos, “The organization cannot become truly data-driven in its decision-making, which is likely sooner or later to lead to competitive disadvantage.”
Mobile makes data silos disappear
When you give your field team mobile access to data, your efficiency really improves. Your field reps really can maximize their productivity, minimize those data entry errors and eliminate the lag time for gaining the information you need.
So what’s holding you back? The reason I hear most often is that retailers are reluctant to add “a new system” that won’t be compatible. And then who has time to slow down for a technology ramp-up?
Before Circle K’s Arizona division became automated with the AccuStore mobile app, its 16 market managers would complete 10 to 12 store visits using manual checklists, then go home to update their Excel spreadsheets, upload photos and email people.
CSP Daily News asked Circle K regional operations director, Heather Heller, how going mobile changed that. Heller answered, “It’s easy, quick and logical (even) for those who are technology challenged. Now they just take (their phones) out, spend five minutes to enter the information and there you have it.” Five minutes and no learning curve to complete tasks versus spending all those frustrating, error-prone hours on “home work,” when you’re tired and trying to recall what you saw.
In a Fortune magazine article, Family Dollar CIO Josh Jewett said the company’s new mobile app makes it “far easier for managers to evaluate a series of store reports generated every Monday morning.” The app is “saving time and money” and teams “have better access to performance metrics.” He also believes it “opens up the opportunity for more peer-to-peer collaboration.”
Companies tell me that, on average, they experience a 5 to 12 percent cost savings annually on their indirect spend by using the AccuStore app. And, of course, goodbye data silos. Having immediate access to the information you need in those Monday morning recaps? Priceless.