Do you pay your people to crunch data, or make decisions?

Ed Crawford, Product Director

Many retail businesses feel that they are drowning in data, but also don't have information in the right format to make it easy to use. I believe that good businesses want their people to make complex decisions with confidence.

If you work in sales or supply-chain within the retail sector, how much of your job involves downloading, manipulating and formatting data? How good are you at ‘vlookups’ or pivot tables? Is this where you add the most value to your business?

The old data way

Over 20 years ago, I started my career as a Data Analyst, so have spent many years wrangling data in Excel, Access & SQL to get to the insight/recommendations that our clients needed. Although, I’m pretty sure no client ever valued the work that was done before the insight we provided. Whilst obtaining and manipulating the data is just the first step, it is probably what takes 90% of your time and effort just to put you in the position where you can then start to apply your domain expertise.

The new data way

In recent years I was lucky enough to join Atheon whose core mission is to humanise data. It was this principle that drew me to the organisation in the first place, as it was something I had unknowingly been doing my entire career.

In my earlier days, the technology to automatically collect and manipulate supermarket data simply didn't exist or it was financially unviable for a lot of businesses, and learning the basics of Excel was the only answer for most people. I’m pretty sure that the ‘best’ analysts at the time, were simply those with the best Excel skills rather than those able to interpret the data in the best way or make the best recommendations off the back of the data. Atheon uses tools and techniques that automate data collection and transformation, taking away all of the pre-analysis pain, leaving data consumers to do what they are paid for, making decisions with confidence.

Monday morning rush

I hear endless stories about Category Managers spending their Sunday’s downloading data from retailer systems, just so they have enough time at 6 am on a Monday morning to get the bare minimum of insight together for retailers in time for 9 am meetings. Automated data collection and transformation means less time wrangling data, whilst visualisation tools and techniques enable faster and deeper analysis. This, in turn, can elevate FMCGs as category experts, and build important collaborative relationships where all parties benefit.

“One of the very worst uses of time is to do something very well that need not to be done at all.” Brian Tracy, Eat That Frog

So, what next?

Embrace change - I’m old enough to remember the sweet chimes of my 56k dial-up modem connecting me to the internet, something long passed and replaced by 1Gb fibre-enabled broadband - they both will connect me to the internet but I have no desire to spend time waiting to stream my favourite TV show or film. Why wouldn’t we apply this same logic to data analysis? Let’s free the analysts of this world to be able to analyse, not slow them down with tasks that in this day and age, are pointless and most definitely not necessary.



Ed started his career as a data analyst at a market research company working with FMCG suppliers to grocery retail, followed by several years heading up a team of data and consumer behaviour analysts. He joined Atheon Analytics in 2009 where he built the development team before moving into his current role as Product Manager.

Atheon helps FMCGs and Retailers to make better use of their ‘Flow-of-Goods’ data through their SKUtrak service.

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