Take Control of Your Data and Focus on the People: Two Essential Components to Building a Successful Analytics-Driven Framework
Today’s ever-improving technology – from IoT (Internet of Things) sensors to powerful microprocessors to complex algorithms calculated in the cloud – has transformed the potential for collecting and using data in all areas of mining. But as Dr. Spencer Johnson pointed out in the classic business book, “Who Moved My Cheese?” changes to the way people work can be problematic.
Along with the below steps mining companies can follow to build a new data analytics-driven framework, aka “better cheese,” the key to success lies in how managers communicate and implement these new systems. Involving the end-user in the process is essential, communicate to them that “the cheese is about to move.” Their involvement could make or break an implementation.
An early investment from the data collectors and data users increases the success and survival of a new technology’s roll-out. By defining goals with end-users before designing the system, you’ve allowed them to invest their interests. By fully educating the end-user of where the data is coming from, how the data is being used, and how it benefits all parties, they will be more emotionally engaged in the entire process.
The key is collaboration. Define the scope, implement the strategy, and release the new solution together.
Step 1: Define Your Global and Local Goals
We hear and read a great deal these days about how mining should be more data-focused, but what data is needed exactly, and how can it be used to meet everyone’s goal? Does the technology address current pains from both the local mine site and global corporate? These questions must all be considered when defining what kind of technology framework will suit both sides of the company.
There can be a disconnect between what corporate managers want to learn from the data to meet their overall goals and what a mine site needs for its localized goals. Lack of perspective exists on both ends, but the ultimate digital solution can help to meet both corporate and operational objectives. There is a great opportunity to make both sides happy in the process of defining what data needs to be collected and for what purpose. This offers management the chance to engage on-site workers in the process, by asking them what insights would improve their workflows, productivity, or safety. Getting those who will ultimately collect and interact with the data involved from the outset ensures that their needs will be heard. And it offers corporate a chance to be transparent about how on-site workers can collect and interact with the data to support overall goals. This is collaboration.
Step 2: Design the System with Experts
Once the ideal digital solution has been defined, the next step is to design the system that will meet those goals and layout your data management plan. This is usually done in collaboration with a technology services provider with a high level of expertise to ensure the flow of data is efficient, automated, and integrated with a specific workflow. Among the many points the company and the data services provider will consider are the following:
- How will the data be collected?
- Where does that data exist?
- What format is the data in?
- What solution can crunch that data for you?
- Who has access to that solution?
- Who needs access to the answers?
- Can that solution then send its answers on to another system?
- Are those answers being shared with all teams or is it siloed?
- Where can we eliminate repetition to the greatest degree possible?
- Is the solution scalable? Can it be grown or changed to adapt to changing needs over time?
Step 3: Communicate the Benefits
The final step in successfully implementing a new digital solution is communication. If workers do not understand the value of implementing the new system and how it can improve their work experience, they are likely to view the new changes with apprehension and suspicion, “Where’s my cheese?” But like Dr. Spencer says, “Movement in a new direction helps find new cheese.”
Rather than simply showing workers how to use the new system, a successful communications strategy should walk them through the process so that they understand where the data is coming from, how it is used in conjunction with other inputs, and the insights and benefits that using the new system will convey. It should be made clear to them not only how the new system will benefit the mining company overall, but also how they will see improvement: “better cheese.”
Communicate with both the users and the stakeholders to realize the benefits and make sure that they are relevant and achievable.
Three values of involving the end-user:
- An Entire Team of Champions – By explaining the advantages of the new system so that all users feel that they are stakeholders who benefit, workers are more likely to have a positive attitude towards the changes, and “champion” the changes that are made.
- A Shift in Big Brother Attitudes – A successful communications strategy will openly address any concerns workers might have about “Big Brother” watching over them as they report data at work. They need to understand that the data will not be used to evaluate personal performance or to eliminate jobs but is instead collected and analyzed to identify bottlenecks or inefficiencies which will then support them to have better outcomes.
- Feedback for a Better Build – Workers need to feel important, and their feedback upon first testing and using the new system is crucial – not only for improving the data input process where possible, but for them to feel engaged and heard by management during the implementation process.
A data-driven analytical framework can provide insights that will greatly improve the mine’s productivity, safety, and cost-efficiency. It can be well-defined, designed using the most cutting-edge technology, and implemented in a reliable, high-speed connectivity environment with the best equipment. And despite all this, it can fail. The most important factor for its success is the agility of the mindset from both management and end-users. The mindset required for success in change is knowing that “being in the uncomfortable zone is much better than staying in the cheese-less situation.”
If the benefits of the new system have been well-communicated, the processes are not overwhelming, and management is open to feedback, it is likely to be well-received. Engaging end-users in the process as much as possible can go a long way in fostering a stakeholder mentality and a personal interest in seeing the new system succeed.
Focus on a framework because all operations and needs are different. Demands will change, “the cheese will move,” and building a dynamic and flexible system will enable greater success.
About the Authors
Ian Vaughan is Nyrstar’s Solution Architect Mining. Ian is a professional geologist specializing in data management and mining applications. He strives to move mining into the 21st century and drive digital technology in mining through collaborating with business management and users achieving better and more sustainable operations. Ian’s passion is in helping to make mining sustainable and stronger for the changing future of our world.
Lindsey Miller’s marketing mission is to make mining just as cool as space exploration. Her varied background in multi-channel B2B digital marketing assists her current position; be a beacon for the value that DataCloud’s proven technology brings to production operations. DataCloud’s advanced cloud-computing, machine learning algorithms, and analytics platform has no trail blazed in the mining industry. This fuels her passion for being on the cusp of transformation. She prioritizes staying curious, listening, and doing better together.