Converting data into knowledge

One of the benefits of the diverse foodservice market is the variety of data and information that is available to operators and manufacturers. The danger is that it remains only as information and is never converted to knowledge or insight that can be used to create competitive advantage in your business.

The Institute of Management advises that ‘knowledge management is the process of making creative, effective and efficient use of all the information available to an organisation for the benefit of its customers and thus the company’.

Knowledge well managed is an intellectual asset and should be treated with all the care that you currently put into safeguarding cash and fixed assets. If you are about to take such a step you will need to support the action with clear management direction and goals for your team members or departments. The aim of these steps is to deliver the right information to the right audience in a timely fashion and useable format.

First identify the information you need from the myriad of data that is available to the business that most supports your commercial goals and strategy.

Expect there to be dozens of seemingly unconnected strands because next you should organise them into clusters or headings to begin to piece together an information map. The most popular headings could be Finance, Customer, Competitor, Internal process and Employee. The number of items under each heading is up to you but as many as 10 are generally manageable.

The information groupings, assembled from your loose strands and map, could look like the diagram above but make sure you discard any that don’t make a critical difference to your plan.

Once you have established the groupings that are vital for your part of the business you will need to establish your reporting and review process. What needs to be examined daily, weekly, monthly or quarterly? Who is going to be responsible and how do you wish to produce the information and in what format?

Be rigorous in your demands for this, you’ve already taken time to decide what information is critical to your plans and goals, now champion the need for visibility across all the areas.

Your data will become knowledge when you become completely familiar with the information you are reporting on and you decide to take action. Insight invariably comes when two pieces of seemingly unrelated pieces of information combine to create an ‘ahaa’ moment.

The benefits of managing your information in this way are likely to be varied, but from experience the best examples are:

l Your focus on key points of detail in your organisation will deliver the same behaviour in your managers and team members.

l The discussion you engage in around these topics should challenge your team to deliver improvements; and as they engage in finding improvement solutions your teams will enjoy the involvement this brings and have the opportunity to feel enhanced in their roles.

l As you and your team look deeper into the products and services you provide your customers, you will be able to take decisions to deliver improvements as you begin to understand the outcomes of previous plans.

l Your improved knowledge of your competition can aid faster reaction in the face of market change and your improved knowledge of the marketplace could also allow you to lead that change challenging others to react.

Data or knowledge really is a choice for any business. It is not the sole domain of the largest, richest or most powerful.

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