What should you know about digitalisation?

Since launching our cloud-based data management solution Apollo KnowHow™ in 2016, we have worked closely with all our customers to transform how they manage business critical data.

Along the way, we have taught a lot but we have also learned a few things about digitalisation and digital transformation that we think will be helpful to anyone on a digital journey.

So, what information do you need to get started?

We are often asked at the start of a digitalisation project, ‘What data do I need to start this journey?’. The simple answer is you can only work with what you have. If you have 20 years of data stored in legacy databases and Microsoft Excel spreadsheets, then that is your starting point.

But I have used this system for 25 years, all my data is there?

Legacy data is often a concern for companies and considered a real barrier to change. People are rightfully nervous about switching, even if they hate the system they use. The most common questions we hear are:

  • If we have 25+ years of legacy data, where do you start in migrating it to a new platform?
  • What if the data is of questionable quality?
  • How long will it take to migrate?

Are these legitimate concerns? Of course they are. Should they stop you from taking steps to improve efficiencies in your organisation and reduce cost? Absolutely not.

If some of the legacy data has no value, exclude it from the process. If you have not used the data in 5-10 years, ask yourself, will you ever use it? Remember, it can always be added later if you change your mind.

Should you cleanse your data before embarking on the digital journey? Our answer is ‘no’ and we will tell you why…do you have the resources to cleanse data whilst it still being used on a daily basis? We would guess that you probably do not.

Legacy data can be cleansed and rationalised as part of the digital journey and often much more quickly than you may think. For example, on a recent job Apollo cleansed, rationalised and migrated legacy data for multiple assets covering 1997-2020 to a new solution in less than five weeks and we are only getting faster.

What do you actually want from your data?

Very often, we find that companies do not really know what they want from their data, but they think digitalisation is the answer. Digitalisation is the process to deliver more value from your data but you need to know what you want the data to do. Do not get us wrong, they know roughly what they want but what they want and what they need are not necessarily the same thing.

If we have learned only one thing, it is that the initial deliverable list is almost always based on legacy tools and their limitations.

Try not to define deliverables in too much detail on day one and be open to challenging your existing working processes. Nobody knows how you work better than you and once the shackles are off from legacy systems, the possibilities for improvement are limitless.

You have got to get the users onboard

‘Too many cooks spoil the broth’ goes the saying, and it’s as true in digitalisation as anywhere else. However (and at the risk of contradicting ourselves), it is important to involve as many users as possible.

Digitalisation and software should help people in their daily jobs and not be a hindrance. It should work for everyone, do the rubbish jobs that you don’t want to and leave you to concentrate on what is really important.

For Apollo, that means involving the technicians who work on-site capturing data, the office users reviewing and interpreting that data, senior management and also the IT and IS teams. The solution has to work for all users and be compliant with corporate IT/IS guidelines. We always recommend appointing at least one focal point user (preferably in each distinct category) to collate the feedback from their colleagues.

Check your progress

Digitalisation is a journey – the route and even the destination may change during the project as you learn what you can do with your data using new and better tools. Embrace this flexibility and be open to change in how you capture and manage your data.

Tools should be there to make your life easier. You shouldn’t have to create workarounds or bend processes to suit a system that doesn’t even work. Make sure you are getting maximum value from the software you are using.