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20 Oct 2016 - Business Management by Steve Mundell

How to create trust in your data

An essential element for introducing digital innovations is an environment where you can trust the key components.

Let that sink in for a minute. When thinking about innovation it’s easy to get focused on experimentation, testing and methodologies and the specific problem at hand. But with innovation comes risk. Unless we have a reasonable degree of confidence in all parts of the system we have little or no ability to truly innovate.

So how can resources companies create an environment of trust so digital innovations can thrive? How do we manage the risk of innovation? I addressed this topic in the Data and the Digital Mine webinar for Austmine.

Expectations of a connected world

In every part of our life we’ve come to expect a seamless sharing of data between disparate systems. When I visit my GP, I expect my doctor to have the results of blood tests taken at a clinic. When I take my car in for service, I expect they’ll have a better record than I have of past maintenance and purchases. I don’t want to remember when I purchased tires or the history of when they’ve been rotated. I appreciate my frequent flyer account is funnelling loyalty points from a variety of different airlines, car hires and travel accommodations. And even though I relinquish a bit of privacy, being able to use a Google or Facebook password to sign on to different websites is handy. We live in a connected world.

Trust has been built up in these systems because they deliver consistent results through seamless sharing of data.

Where the resources industry is lagging

Despite massive amounts of technical innovation in the resources industry, how we handle data still has room for improvement. We don’t have the best processes in place and use a lot of manual systems. While every part of an operation is dependent on the data coming from the drillhole, we’re still experiencing an environment where every system maintains its own version of the drilling data. This creates inconsistent translations and quality issues throughout an operation. These problems bubble to the surface, are noticed, and ultimately result in people not trusting the results.

Trust becomes even more elusive when you introduce poor data handling processes into the mix. The cost of data skyrockets and the value plummets as the same translation of data is done again and again, by different parties. The end user who appreciated the flexibility of managing their own dataset suffers from quality issues and lack of consistency. Nothing is sustainable for the long term and certainly not over the life of an operation.

How can digital innovation thrive?

Using tools and processes provides a gateway to reliable data. It’s the first step to ensuring trust. Data must be accessed quickly and easily to make effective business decisions. It has to be provided in a format everyone (and every system) understands and expects. Data needs to be available when and where it’s needed.

In addition to easy access and availability, the data must be verified and validated. Without this step, bad data slips through and trust is eroded. For example, geoscientific data is extremely important because it describes the ore body and where it’s located. If this data isn’t trusted, you’ll have people fleeing back to the comfort of their own spreadsheets in no time. When that happens, the efficiency and safety of the whole operation is compromised.

Lastly, the ideal future state for digital innovation is that the transfer of data is a fully facilitated process with a managed business system to business system transfer of data based on accepted standards and protocols. This is the piece that makes everyday life easy and manageable. Implementation of good data governance provides secure data transfer with a low risk of “data manipulation” or “fiddling with the results”. When there’s a high degree of trust in the data, people are far less likely to interfere with it. Good data management takes into account the process that happens in each system, and the solution is updated with changes in the systems.

Turning your data into a trusted resource

Nobody wants to work with bad data. You need to have consistently good experiences with the data before you trust it. This may seem simple, but there are a number of challenges to overcome and it takes time to foster that trust.

Forging those connections for digital innovation requires collaboration from multiple parties. Data needs to be made available and accessed quickly. It must be in a common format and all parties need to be confident about the quality of the data being sent, received and shared. Trust in the data is established through the use of tools and processes which standardise data handling and help identify errors in quality.

Putting tools and processes in place to manage your data is the only way you can create widespread organisational trust. Once your data is trusted, digital innovation can begin in earnest.

Get in touch if you’d like to find out more about how you can create a single source of truth in your geoscientific data.

About the Author
Steve Mundell

Steve is the Director of Product for acQuire Technology Solutions. Before he joined acQuire in 2002, Steve worked as an underground mine geologist. His research interest in information management for the natural resources industry guides the product development for acQuire’s next generation geoscientific information management software.

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