As I talk to people in many different businesses, I’m often amazed at how much time they spend extracting, massaging, and scrubbing data for analysis and reporting. I call this “The Data Shuffle”. A friend of mine at Minitab calls it “The stuff we do that we call our job.”

My informal surveys of Six Sigma Black Belts and Green Belts tell me that there is often a 20:1 or 25:1 ratio of massaging and scrubbing data to analyzing that data. And Six Sigma people aren’t the only ones doing the data shuffle. I’ve seen it in all kinds of environments and for all kinds of reasons.

Any way you look at it, The Data Shuffle is not value added activity. It is a business cost that enables better communications with customers and better business decisions.

So why might you not want to show this post to your boss?

Because if you’re doing the data shuffle this post points out that the data shuffle can be eliminated through automation, and that part of your job can be eliminated.

And in this economy I’m guessing you don’t need any more reasons to have your boss eliminate your job.

So what can you do instead?

OK – here is the gutsy move:

Start by studying this matrix:

data value matrix 0

(You can read more about the Cost Value Matrix.) Chances are good that if you’re doing the Data Shuffle, you’re down in quadrant D where the cost of data is High and value of the data is Low.

There is also a good chance that right now your company is very interested in reducing costs. If we automate the Data Shuffle we can shift towards Quadrant C.

So take this matrix to your boss and say something like:

“Look – I know the company is interested in saving money. The economy is tightening up all around us and we need to lean out operations so we’re more competitive… blah blah blah.”

Then say: “I know how to cut some significant Non Value Added costs out of our system. I can help you do that, but if I’m successful, it will eliminate part of my job. Instead of working myself out of a job I’d like to invest this freed time in helping the business make better use of that data. By making better use of the data we can reduce scrap and material costs, improve customer satisfaction… blah blah blah. In other words, I want to help us move up to Quadrant A.”

This gives your boss three options: business as usual, or eliminate the data shuffle and your job, or eliminate the data shuffle and free up time to do more important and value added work. If he chooses business as usual you might want to keep your resume up to date because of the way the economy is going. If he chooses to eliminate the data shuffle and your job, you will at least have learned how to eliminate the data shuffle and you may be able to take that skill into a new business that will appreciate the value of moving to Quadrant A. And if he chooses to reinvest in you and in process improvement, everybody wins.

So give me some feedback: How much time do you spend on the Data Shuffle today? How would this strategy work in your organization?

One Comment

  1. The Data Heads » Blog Archive » How the Recession is Changing Priorities… January 13, 2009 at 4:45 pm

    […] this latter group. Our customers continue to see opportunities to invest in real-time data to help reduce costs, improve efficiencies, reduce waste, and incrementally improve existing processes and products. […]

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