Information as a Strategic Asset

I had the opportunity to listen to a couple consultants from IBM at the APICS Conference in Toronto.  They discussed ways to capture information and make it easier for decision makers to use.  The overriding theme of the presentation was transforming a mass of data into an organized, easily accessible store of information.  Meeting this challenge can offer job seekers a means of differentiating themselves from their competition.

The guys from IBM quoted two statistics that really stood out.  First, they referenced a survey of CEOs where 60% said they need to get better at leveraging information.  This is a challenge in every organization, regardless of company size, industry or market position.  We live in a world with so much information; it can be difficult or impossible to get a handle on what is really going on. 

The second stat related to ability of workers to find the information they need to make decisions.  The stat was from a study of workers’ time and found 70% of time is spent searching for information.  This means in a company, out of every three people, two of them are looking for information at any point in time.  Only one in three is actually acting on the information they find.

These stats point out a major concern in organizations.  Capturing data quickly and efficiently, and incorporate that data into decision making are critical capabilities to allow a company to change faster.  Speed and flexibility were a major theme of a number of the presentations at the conference.  Companies can’t afford to wait a long time to see trends develop and mature.  They need to adapt quickly – faster than their competition. 

As a job seeker, how is this relevant to your search?  Simple, managing and leveraging data is a critical concern for companies, and if you can show how you improved the effectiveness of an employer in this area in the past, you can set yourself apart. 

Some people will look at this and assume the change has to be major – implementing a major data management system affecting every aspect of the company.  Major technology upgrades are important, but few of us are involved in buying a new ERP system.  Despite this, there are a lot of other ways you probably affected information utilization. 

Look at the ways you changed the information you required from your team.  Did you make any changes to the reporting you required?  How did this streamline the process for your team?  How did this allow you to make faster and better decisions?

Look at the ways you changed the information you provided others in the organization.  How did you improve the speed you were able to distribute information?  How did you improve the quality of the information you provided?  What did you do to make this information more accessible so others could make better and faster decisions?

These questions point to improvements you may have made in your organizations.  Examples of these improvements can show the value you will provide if hired.  They are accomplishments that can set you apart from your competition.  To present these with the most impact, you should show the end result of the improvement.  It’s not enough to just say you improve the efficiency of information gathering activities.  How did gathering that data faster allow the organization to do something it couldn’t do before?  This improvement could allow for better customer service, better forecasts, improved quality and reduced scrap, faster product development, or a host of other improvements. 

Ultimately, you want to show how your efforts made a company more competitive and profitable.  The incremental activities towards this goal can be impressive and help you land a job over other candidates with the same or greater experience.  The key is showing your contributions and successes.  Data management and reporting is critical competency affecting the overall success of a company.  Providing examples of your success in this area will help demonstrate your potential.