Engaging Data Explains :
Creating The Gold Standards in Data –
Part II : Assessing the Gold
In this second part of our four-part series on gold standards in data, we’re going to examine the importance of instilling a review process.
Reviewing is never the most exciting nor relished procedure! It often feels like an unnecessary grind that slows down your whole operation. But it’s actually a critical part of any good business, enabling you to identify major faults before they become ingrained.
We’ve already seen in the first part of our gold standards blog that the cake shop reviewed their existing processes before making a decision to change their order form. Often it’s only from self-assessing in this way that you can uncover new ways of working that enhance your productivity and efficiency.
It’s also important to emphasise that this needs to happen across the business. It’s normal to have a review as part of project governance for new projects, but it’s always worthwhile to reassess existing projects as well. They may be ‘good enough’, but they also might not be reaching the gold standard.
So in our cake shop scenario, how will the business assess the standard of the cakes being produced? Well, when the business reviewed the kitchen they found that each cook bakes one order, while also being responsible for checking their own cakes before they move to the decoration stage. This all seemed fine, but then the retailer received a few complaints about burnt edges and sub-par ingredients. Consequently, the cake shop reflected that its existing process of ‘marking your own homework’ was not sufficiently robust to identify problems.
In order to address this issue, several ways of reviewing the production of cakes were decided upon:
- A simple visual inspection – does the cake look uncooked or overcooked?
- A thorough test, such as breaking the centre of the cake to see if it is cooked.
- Pressing the centre of the cake to see if it springs back.
- Hiring Paul Hollywood as a tester!
All of these checks are designed to see if the cake has been cooked satisfactorily. The shop decided to opt for all options, with the exception of hiring Paul Hollywood! Instead, each baker will review one another’s baking, with the hope that the business will grow to support a head baker who will review all cakes.
Just as the cake shop reviewed its processes to put a more stringent review structure in place, the same can also be implemented in a data-driven environment. The following questions are examples of some that you can ask yourself as part of this process:
- Does the team need training?
- Do you need to recruit new people with different skill sets?
- Do the products need to change?
- Is the supply line quick enough?
- Would more people or different processes help with efficiency?
- Is the product still worth the effort that is invested in producing it?
Once you’ve baked some quality cakes, you then need to take steps to market the product. It’s not enough to just produce the cakes and leave your customers to eat them if you want to maximise your marketing efforts. Building advocacy and influence via your customers is a great way of marketing your cakes to the right people. Word-of-mouth feedback from advocates is trusted by other potential customers, and is therefore far more effective than other forms of marketing.
However, there are two sides to the coin here. Negative feedback can be dangerous if it’s not managed effectively. Negative comments about the burnt edges of cakes will spread like wildfire to existing and prospective customers. But there are ways of recovering from this. Making courtesy calls to customers can provide you valuable insight into the process of ordering and consumption.
Getting the right team in place, tailoring products for your target market, and taking feedback onboard in an active process are all important facets of contemporary marketing.
What are the Considerations?
Gold standards always begin with what you are looking to deliver and who this will benefit. Gold standards should be designed to support outcomes, having considered both the internal and external factors that will influence design. Creating steps in the process to continually challenge the functionality of the end product and ensure that standards are still relevant to the end user should therefore be considered essential.
Sponsors and influencers can also play an extremely important role. Both can become prime advocates of your product, with the added benefit with sponsors that they pay you to advertise your goods or service!
Internal Considerations –
Data can be compared to ingredients within a cake. Naturally, good quality ingredients are critical to producing the best cake possible. The same applies to data. As we mentioned in part one, if you put rubbish data into your systems, you can expect rubbish outcomes!
At some point, the cake shop company realised that the bakers are not periodically reviewing the ingredients within their cupboards. To address this, the manager inspects everything that they have on hand, ensuring that any poor quality ingredients are replaced, and that anything out of data is thrown away. Labelling is updated, while processes are put in place to ensure that there is no repetition of these mistakes.
The key point here is that while complaints were registered about burnt edges, it may have been the ingredients that contributed to the final product that were the problem. Going forward, the team at the bakery put in place a series of key questions that would inform their processes in future baking:
- Do we have enough data to make the size of cake required?
- Are we getting our ingredients from the right suppliers?
- Does this product contain nuts?
- Have I mixed sugar up with salt?
- The milk smells as if it’s on the turn, should I use it?
- Do we store the ingredients in the right place, in the correct containers?
Resources and Teams
When baking your cake, you can select from many different types of bakers or specialist chefs to assist with the process. Or you may decide that you wish to train yourself, or an existing employee, so that they can handle the most challenging baking tasks.
In some cases, if the cake shop utilises industrial equipment, people who have been trained to use this equipment can be deployed, as opposed to bakers or specialist cake makers. Having the right team with the right skills, and/or the aptitude to learn them, can be critical to successfully achieving gold standards. Instilling this in your team culturally is critically important in providing direction to your whole operation.
Achieving this can be as simple as asking yourself the following questions:
- Is the team right to build the end product? If not, what needs to change?
- Is the team open to changing or evolving in order to improve the product or efficiency?
- Do we have the right skills? If not, do we need to second or buy them in?
Finally, failing to understand the company culture will lead to failure. Gold standards must fit into the existing culture, or the direction the company is moving towards.
Understanding how your customers think, managing their expectations and developing a standard to consistently perform to those expectations is simple to conceive. However, the human element of this could result in you developing hundreds of different gold standards for multiple different customers.
Important questions to ask yourself here:
- Are the customers knowledgeable about your products? If not, can you educate them?
- Do you share your practice? Would it help your customers to know what you do and how you do it?
- Are there any expectations that you can manage?
- Are they any difficult expectations you have to work towards?
Implementing a gold standard for data may seem like an all-encompassing and intimidating goal. But it instead should be seen as a granular process. Breaking down the ingredients and individual components that collectively create gold standards is the best way to achieve this aim.