Helping management understand big data

Published in September 2020 Fleet Affiliation

Information is a key motivator when making decisions. As a fleet professional, you have suppliers, internal sources, peers, and perhaps years of experience to rely on. Accurate information is the building block of any successful venture. Like complex vehicles, successful ventures are multifaceted with the end goal of connecting parts and pieces to form an efficiently working tool. Understanding information is an important layer of the decision-making experience. Having the data and presenting it are two completely different areas of importance. Most organizations understand the significance of having compete and accurate information. The next step is having clear and complete communications with management. Often, management that is outside the fleet realm will need context before comprehension can begin, meaning explanations beyond the information on a printed page are necessary.

Data and information, it’s not the same
We all collect data or have access to raw data as a starting point. Data and information are sometimes easily confused. Both are important and provide the basis for decision making. Data needs to be processed and turned into information. Similar to the manufacturing process, we need to continue to assemble pieces as each resides in a complete and functional unit. Data is raw, unfiltered and unorganized. This reveals the importance of communicating data vs. communicating information. Consider data as a singular piece. Out of context or unprocessed, it can seem random, even useless, or at worst, be misinterpreted. Information, on the other hand, is data that has been processed, providing context and is infinitely more useful. This context is what should be communicated; it completes the message with explanations. It solidifies the reasoning behind replacements, budget forecasting, predictive and preventative maintenance practices, vehicle right sizing, and much more.

Keeping the human instinct
Compiling data and turning it into information is crucial, but don’t dismiss instinct. Your well-presented information is as only as good as the raw, singular data points. We all know bad data will most likely lead to bad decisions. Additionally, analyzing irrelevant data to create information is misleading, especially to those outside the industry. Instinct is your ability to realize when data is incorrect or irrelevant and to provide insight accordingly.

Compiling the results
In the end, it is important to educate management at all levels. They may not have complete understanding about the importance of fleet to the organization. As we all know, trucks keep the goods rolling, whether it’s within an organization or moving physical goods down the road. Educated management is possible by sharing information across an organization that was created by an instinctive fleet professional using well-analyzed data.

If you would like to discuss this, or other fleet issues with NTEA, contact Chris Lyon, NTEA director of fleet relations.