by Dr. Markus Deutsch
“How you gather, manage, and use information will determine whether you win or lose.”
Bill Gates, 1999
Over the last five years, our work with high performance organizations has rapidly evolved. In the early days, High Performance was all about deep sport science analysis, mainly in areas such as load monitoring, but over time it has become much more than that.
We have also expanded our work from elite sport into other areas such as the military, first responders, and workforce. In doing so, we’ve learned a great deal about the value data can have for organizations.
Whether you are an NFL, NBA or NHL team, a SEAL Team unit, Fire Station Chief, or Technology company CEO, the success of your organization depends on one thing – your people. So how can you use data effectively to maximize your return on people investment, and in turn maximize your chance of success?
When Fusion was a small company, I knew what everyone was doing, how they were going, and everyone working at Fusion knew where to find the answers they needed to perform at their jobs. But as we moved past 50, and then past 100 people, this no longer worked. “Art” and “gut feel” had to give way to data-driven decision making.
To achieve this, like most businesses, we have implemented a variety of data capture and reporting tools, including our own Smartabase platform in the day to day running of our business (yes, we practice what we preach and are both the producers and clients of Smartabase).
The value of data
When people think of “Human Performance” they often think about GPS tracking, sleep monitoring, nutrition, and the like. But in large organizations, performance is multi-faceted.
Protection of “assets”
For most organizations, its people are its greatest assets, whether those assets are players, first responders, or servicemembers. Data is vital to managing risk, minimizing time loss due to injury and illness, and ensuring people are ready to perform.
This is obvious, but many organizations get it wrong by holding different data sets in silos and looking at it through a single lens. A great example is a common sports example where medical data is kept in one system, and other data in another.
To get a true picture, all of it needs to be in one single place where its valued can be multiplied by combining with other data sets.
Maximizing effective communication
Data can be a double-edged sword if managed incorrectly. Many organizations find themselves drowning in data, getting into the situation where people cannot see the forest for the trees. In addition to centralizing and managing your data well, it is important to standardize how data is communicated and interpreted across your organization to foster a collective understanding. In each data area some people will be able to make sense of complicated numbers, but for others in the organization in other areas of expertise, it’s just noise.
This is where great data visualization comes into play. By developing consistent standards across your organization of how data is displayed for interpretation, you make it possible for everyone to understand. Consistent use of chart types, color coding systems, icons and other visual indicators turn numbers into valuable information that everyone can interpret. However, in parallel to creating those consistent threads, you need to tailor the views of that information to different user types to suit how they understand information and support the decisions they need to make in their specific roles. For example, in a pro sports team, both the GM and the Athletic Trainer need to understand the injury status of a player, but at different levels of detail and with different context. Effective data visualization should provide the right level of information to each person in their own context, yet still have them both on the same page.
It is not just your star players, warfighters, or other people “out in front” of your organization that are its assets – everyone in your organization is an asset.
Many organizations make the mistake of thinking that it’s OK to have someone “just deal with that” as long as it’s not one of the stars of the show. If people in your organization are stuck doing inefficient tasks instead of doing what they can to ‘make the boat go faster’ then your organization is missing out.
This is where workflow automation can have a dramatic impact, and this is where we mostly leverage Smartabase at Fusion to make the boat go faster. As data comes into our environment, it is automatically distributed to where it adds value – updating dashboards in real time, sending out alerts via email and mobile app notifications, and reminding people to do things instead of someone having to do it manually.
By defining the rules of our organization and configuring those rules into Smartabase, people can ‘set and forget’ and get on with focusing on more valuable work. As an added benefit, nowhere near as many balls get dropped along the way.
In summary, centralizing and automating the way your organization uses data is not just for the scientists, it is for the benefit of everyone in your organization.
Data is an asset
The data your organization collects and generates is also an important asset. I do not know how many times I have seen organizations (including our own) suffer when data and information has been stored on someone’s laptop in an Excel file and lost, especially when someone leaves the organization.
The solution seems simple – “make” everyone put the data in a centralized system. But it’s not that simple.
Many information systems lack the configurability to change quickly as the data environment changes, so new data types must be stored in Excel files or on pieces of paper until the next software release comes out. The problem with this is that it creates cracks in your data environment, and eventually it falls apart.
The main thing we have focused on since launching Smartabase in 2011 is providing a solution that is extremely configurable in real-time, by the subject matter experts using the system, not by computer programmers.
Serious about security
Whilst the topic of security is not that exciting, our work with the US Department of Defense the past few years has enlightened me as to just how important security is.
You may not realize it, but your data is under constant attack, and breaches are more common than you might realize. The more distributed your data is, the greater the attack surface to the outside, and the greater the risk. Protecting your data in a certified secure platform with a configurable role-based access control (RBAC) system is critical to protecting your data and providing peace of mind to the people in your organization.
Over the past 10 years we have implemented Smartabase in over 200 organizations including over 100,000 hours of consulting service by our Human Performance consulting team to optimize the way organizations use data. We’re always happy to share our knowledge and drive organizations forward, so get in touch if you would like to learn more.