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Baby steps: Take quantum leaps through data for your business

Updated: Nov 14, 2019

For many service providers, spreadsheets are the bailing twine holding the administrative, process, reporting, and management needs of the organisation together. There’s loads of manual data entry (and re-entry!), potentially hazardous workarounds (aka ‘Excel gymnastics’) that are prone to inaccuracies, as well as the issue of key-person and governance risk. (Who was it that wrote those formulas in the spreadsheet again?) By the time reports are finalised and in the hands of decision makers, (it’s not uncommon for a week or more to be spent each month on collating reports for the previous month) they are often beyond their use-by date.


Running the organisation this way may have been workable in the era of block-funding, but not so anymore. Tight margins, payment in arrears, and customers who can choose to ‘leave’ or swap services at any time are all part of the new consumer choice and NDIS world. Further add into the mix the increased complexity of systems, processes and compliance now required and few would argue that lagging reports or ‘gut-feel’ are sufficient to sustain, let alone scale your business.


So, it’s not rocket science that leveraging your data is a key element in building your organisation’s #TranformationCapability. However, the gap between knowing you need to do something ‘better’ with your data and actually knowing ‘how’ to do it … and then getting it ‘done’ … well, that can feel for many like it requires a genuine ‘quantum leap’.


Totally understandable if you feel this way! In the past there was no easy, timely, affordable solution.


With limited and costly integration between systems, data has traditionally been stuck in silos. Siloed data typically leads to ‘silo-view’ reports, which in turn often then leads to the kind of Excel-hell we described at the beginning of this article!


In the past, an IT expert would likely have told you to build a data warehouse (or data-lake if you want to be trendy) to put all your data in one place like the ‘big guys’ do. This approach would have spawned a large and expensive IT project: Firstly, you had to ‘cleanse’ your data; then you had to ‘migrate’ your data. Once you have your data in one place – then what? You invested in another expensive series of IT projects with names like ‘business intelligence’. If you’ve been on that journey so far yourself, you’ve probably spent north of half-a-million dollars and often waited a year or two for tangible results. And the results? Maybe you’ve come out with a generic reporting dashboard, but also the ongoing cost of more admin/technical staff and a heavy dependency on IT.


Sound familiar? Either from your own experience, or from stories others have shared with you? A little depressing perhaps?


“What about those promised ‘baby steps’ then?”, I hear you ask!


In our experience, two of the key elements that enable baby steps round data that contribute significantly towards a quantum leap for your organisation’s transformation capability: are data aggregation and taking a key business question-led approach.


Leverage the power of data aggregation...

...instead of investing heavily in an expensive, slow to implement, system integration project, Data aggregation is now a key transformation capability, enabled by technology such as APIs – and other links between your data sources, whether they be cloud-based systems, excel files, PRODA reports, or extracts from older style on-premise systems.

It’s great news! You no longer have to boil your ocean of data, or invest huge dollars or time up front. You can now take an iterative approach to leveraging your data … one baby step at a time.

Just imagine what’s possible when you aggregate data from your core systems: such as your CRM, finance, staff, rostering and government portals … you will find answers to questions you likely have not been able to answer ever before.


Which leads to the second key point…


Don’t “think reporting” - take a business question mindset.


Remember all the data in the world is useless, unless it can be leveraged to provide you insights that empower you to make evidence-based decisions. Lots of organisations are focusing on building out reporting, but unless the reports provide you with clear answers to critical business questions, they just add to the noise. (And we all have plenty of that already to deal with each day!)


Ask the questions that you don’t have answers to … but know you need them!



As per the first example above, a common issue we are finding amongst service providers (though many organisations remain blissfully unaware) is what we like to call “revenue leakage”....


Indeed it is not unusual for even small providers to be ‘leaking’ tens of thousands of dollars per month because they have not been able to mash up their siloed data from their staff, rostering and PRODA sources to get a clear view of what services are being delivered and not invoiced. Sound familiar?


It can be like you know there are needles in your haystacks, but with thousands of rows to search in a spreadsheet it would be like winning Tatts Lotto to find them!


Suggested tips for your next baby steps towards building your data transformation capability...

Invest some time to work out:

1) What are the top five critical business questions you want to ask and answer?

2) A list of the processes you’d like to automate.

3) What are some improved workflows you’d like to introduce to impact your bottom line?


We encourage to you to be limited by your imagination… not the tools of prior generations! Feel free to reach out to us if you'd like to discuss this further.

Article contributors: Oscar Ruiz, Steven Balderstone, Kerryn Zwag.

Earlier articles in this #TransformationCapability series:

Transformation is a capability - not just a journey

Climbing the Cliffs of Complexity

What does 'good' look like for Service Providers?


Follow Blue Bike for more great articles, and if you are coming to the NDS CEO Conference in November, please drop by our booth near the coffee cart to chat!


Blue Bike exists to help organisations that provide a positive impact for our community do their good better. We partner extensively with service providers from the disability, mental-health, aged-care, international development and broader social services sectors. As the community sector consulting specialists we understand the importance of taking a holistic and pragmatic approach to transformation. With proven capabilities spanning strategy & operations, people & process, systems & technology, and data & insights you can rest assured we know how to meet you where you are and help you move to where you need to be.

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