How Data Standardization Fuels Global Operations
By Scott Mackey | April 5, 2018
To remain globally competitive in an increasingly digital world, it’s crucial to be able to find, access, and leverage the data you need—when you need it. As the volume and variety of your data grows, however, so do the challenges associated with managing it. Whether you’re grappling with inaccessibility or versioning and formatting issues, the state of your data can be a major hindrance on the path to streamlined operations.
If your organization must manually intervene in data processes that should be running smoothly on their own, you’ll spend more time putting out operational fires than focusing your time and talents on more strategic tasks. To begin to address these challenges, organizations must standardize their data to ensure that it’s clean, searchable, properly formatted, and follows the same naming conventions across file systems and databases—regardless of the format it came in.
Here are a few benefits that global enterprises can derive from making data standardization a priority.
Improving Information Sharing Globally
Global organizations typically possess a deluge of documents and files in a variety of formats, languages, platforms, and versions. Problems arise when one arm of your organization is running on a different platform than others, or when program versions are more advanced in some areas than others. You shouldn’t have to worry about whether or not you can open a file from a different business unit, but this is a reality that many organizations face. Often, key knowledge workers require a variety of different applications to open the documents and files they need, and they may even have to recreate the data in question. This extra level of manual intervention wastes precious time, energy, and resources.
European Union Parliament receives member documentation in a variety of formats and languages, for example. To ensure compatibility across the board, they standardized their files into the universally accessible and readable PDF format, ensuring that everyone could open the file in the appropriate language. This data standardization allowed the organization to eliminate the need for translations and reconfigurations, streamlining meetings and proceedings.
Simplifying Compliance Requirements
Global organizations who must adhere to regulations from a variety of countries are particularly susceptible to the challenges posed by dark, dirty data. The arrival of GDPR further highlights the importance of knowing exactly what’s contained within your data, so you can redact documents and restrict access as necessary.
To align your organization’s document-management practices with compliance and archival requirements, you must gain complete transparency into the sensitive data that’s contained within your documents. With the sheer volume of data flowing into your organization, combined with the historical data you’ve accrued over the years, there’s sure to be a percentage that’s inaccessible—meaning that you might be in trouble when auditors come knocking. Data normalization and standardization lays the foundation for creating compliance-driven, actionable assets that sit in line with your organization’s information governance and compliance policies.
Streamlining Efficiency & Communications
If your enterprise is functioning at a global level, day-to-day operations means engaging with a vast network of suppliers, manufacturers, and contractors. The essential flow of information gets backlogged, however, whenever an employee or external stakeholder must convert a file or track down the right application to open it.
This was the case for TTX. As a manufacturer with many different suppliers, they received documents and proposals for new projects in a variety of different formats. This slowed decision-making and added time and complication to existing workflows, as it took time to find the right app to open a file and to export the files to the correct format.
To resolve this issue, TTX put a portal in place that allowed their suppliers to submit proposals in whatever format was most convenient for them. They standardized these documents into searchable PDFs that could be easily opened—regardless of their original format. This data standardization process allowed them to accelerate internal processes, speeding decision-making and project completion.
External communication isn’t the only area that data standardization and normalization renders more efficient. By standardizing all the data in your custody, you get back the time, money, and resources previously dedicated to sifting through documents. As competitive pressures grow, automating critical workflows becomes increasingly important, and standardizing your data is one way to inch closer towards this goal.
Improving the Customer Experience
To compete against disruptive, born-digital firms, more established organizations must start delivering the same level of customer care that all-digital companies can. The first step is to ensure that your processes facilitate fast response times, and that your customers can easily (and digitally) interact with your company across all key touchpoints.
Getting the right information to the right person at the right time is made much easier when your data is fully standardized and is in a user-friendly format. That’s why PDF is such a popular choice. Since it’s an accessible, cross-platform, cross-device format, it ensures that your users and customers have ready access to the information they need—without worrying about multiple, interrupting steps. Take Amazon, for example. This online giant recognizes the value of streamlining the flow of information, so they send shipping receipts to customers in PDF format.
Enabling More Strategic File Analytics
Data standardization is also the first step to enabling more sophisticated file analytics within your organization. If all your documents and files are in different formats, it’s impossible to extract and leverage the business intelligence you need. This is particularly problematic if your documents exist in formats that are not searchable, since personnel will then have to scroll through endless rows of files to find the information they need (if they can even open them, that is). However, once the metadata in your documents is intact, and all your files are properly formatted, you can easily prepare your data for continued downstream processing, analysis, and other more complex use cases.
When done properly, introducing a data standardization process to your organization can eliminate the extra steps needed to manually convert and format documents from one version or language to another. By standardizing your documents, your organization can achieve greater process efficiency, an improved customer experience, superior business intelligence, and streamlined compliance—setting the stage for new heights of performance and possibility through improved file analytics.
About the Author
As a senior executive, Scott has spent the last 20 years building Adlib into the thriving organization it is today. Scott has held customer-focused leadership roles spanning success, professional services, marketing, and support. He is passionate about business growth, the human impact of technology, and the pursuit of an ideal customer experience measured in the customers’ terms.