No 'Easy' Button for Managers When Gathering, Analyzing Data
Part 1 of a 2-part article on gathering and analyzing data
Over the last several years, we have spent a lot of time talking about the plethora of information available to maintenance and engineering managers, as well as strategies to identify needed information, distill it down to the essentials, and package it in a form that facility executives can act upon to make good decisions. Positioning a team, a department, or an organization to make sound, data-driven decisions requires an intimate understanding of the way facilities serve and support the larger mission.
In an age where electronic devices are ubiquitous, information is plentiful, and devices are more integrated than ever, it seems managers have access to everything. Yet they still have trouble getting to the right information, not to mention dealing with expanding responsibilities, limited time, and leadership that is impatient for answers. If you have ever found yourself thinking, “If only I could push a button and get the answer …,” congratulations, you are not alone. We are all looking for the “easy” button.
The danger with this thinking is the tendency to believe that the ease with which we can conceive of a button solution is in direct proportion to our ability to develop that solution. But if experience has taught us anything, it is that the simplicity of a solution or tool is inversely proportional to the work it takes to develop it. In other words, the easy button is not so easy.
User friendly vs. development friendly
The easy-button solution is simple for the user, but it takes significant time and resources to develop – determining inputs, variables, contingencies, and focused outputs to provide a simple user interface that is fast to decipher.
These solutions come in such forms as program dashboards and applications. The user interface is typically limited to key outputs, trends, and indicators and might not require or allow for much data manipulation.
On the other end of the spectrum are the tools that look more like databases and spreadsheets. They are relatively straightforward to develop and use commercial, off-the-shelf programs that most have ready access to. They are highly adaptable and customizable. They are also more transparent in terms of understanding the impact of data input and influencing factors on outputs. But they can be complex and require more manipulation by the user. In developing any decision-making tool or program, begin with the end in mind. What question are you trying to answer? To get started, use this methodology:
• What decision are you trying to make? Budget allocation? Repair or replacement project planning?
• What information is required to make the decision? Facility use? Equipment service? Equipment reliability? System interactions?
• What variables affect your decision? Available funds? Capital projects already budgeted? Repairs and replacements technicians can perform concurrently?
• What output do you need?