Eight considerations to ensure that you are measuring what matters. 
By Gary Dietz

Waste, transport, and health and safety processes generate an enormous quantity of data from which critical decisions must be made. These “big data” sets come from IoT (Internet of Things) and other devices—on-board computers, fleet management software, billing, credit, and financial processes, regulatory filings and trainings, and an ever-growing set of sources from evolving business workflows.

Your ability to interpret that data can make the difference between a thriving, safe, and effective business, and a faltering, unsafe, and unsustainable one. To easily contextualize and make sense of this data—and take relevant business action—requires a modern, thoughtful approach to the analytics and reporting
capabilities your technology provides.

Here are eight essential things to think about as you plan and evaluate the digital maturation of your organization.

#1: Take a Fresh, Open-Minded Look at Your Approach to Reports and Data Visualization
During the implementation of new software, organizations will often provide reports they ‘need’ simply based on the fact they have used those reports for many years. Take a fresh look at reports and ask yourself who is using the report and what decision they plan to make based on the data.

For example, to keep an eye on potential service issues across your routes, why not leverage a dashboard that displays total route exceptions by route and date over a time period to evaluate trends and pinpoint a poorly performing route? This is in comparison to a traditional report listing hundreds if not thousands of stops where the insight is there, but not necessarily easy to identify and may be missed.

#2: Data Collected Should Be Securely Available for Your Viewing and Analysis—from Any Application
After all, it is your data. Be sure you are aware of where it is located, and that data formats and access policies are well documented. Partners should provide access to the data your business generates not only via their solutions, but they should also make your data available for separate examination and analysis for situations in which built-in reporting and visualization do not suffice. You should have the flexibility to use your selected partner’s business intelligence visualization and reports, or to use Excel, Qlik, Looker Studio, Tableau or others, if you want. This flexibility allows visualization of KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) anywhere, anytime, with any tool.

#3: Demand Reports and Visualization Templates Specific to Waste and Recycling Business Needs
The flexibility previously mentioned is essential. But so is access to dozens of pre-built reports and visualizations created by a partner who deeply understands your business and what data to surface. Working with a partner who understands your business, its workflows, and who can help you clearly and simply report and visualize your data is key. Your partner needs to understand the sectoral specific KPIs that will move the dial in your business performance.

#4: A Partner with a “Big Data” Point of View
It is not just the reports and visualizations that require a partner with deep waste and recycling industry experience. Your partner should employ industry experts to help you uncover insights in your own data that you may not have seen. Connections that are valuable, but that may go unheeded by partners who do not know your business. For example, you may struggle to understand why you need to pay drivers overtime, unless you have granular route KPIs that show the main causes for delays such as congestion, blocked access, overfilled containers, etc. With analytics tools built by industry experts, waste and recycling companies can better monitor business and operational processes. You will more quickly identify trends, potential issues, and be better able to connect the dots and support your customers and employees.

#5: Solutions Should Reflect Deep Understandings of the Complex Algorithms Around Automation
Solutions rely on complex algorithms around mapping, weather, route planning, and more. You should evaluate a potential partner’s depth of experience in modeling the problems based on traditional algorithmic approaches.

In addition, you should explore how the partner is using AI and the size and kinds of data models they are building. When compared to traditional algorithms, AI can leverage huge quantities of structured and unstructured real-world data that can determine answers in areas such as automated visual analysis to detect recycling contamination or container overflow for more accurate charges, predictive analytics around equipment failure, and much more.

Bottom line: Ensure that the partner you select has a deep understanding of these issues and processes and a team who understands and has proven chops in addressing traditional and newer analytical approaches. How well the partner does this will deeply impact the efficacy and safety of your organization.

#6: Integration into a Widely Deployed Financial and Accounting Package
Ensure that you choose a waste and recycling solution that provides reporting and visualization surrounding financial activity specific to our industry, such as brokerage, credit card acceptance, pricing, and more. You must also ensure that there is a secure connection or integration to a reputable financial and accounting system for the wider financial planning, tax, and CFO-required needs of your business. The solution you select for the highly specific waste and recycling workflows you have will eventually need to roll-up into a powerful, traditional accounting package.

#7: Do Not Forget Safety, Compliance, and ESG Reporting and Visualization
Emerging sustainability and ESG (Environmental Social Governance) reporting frameworks will mean that companies will be tracking and reporting on a wider variety of metrics in the future. Ensure that your yard, driver, employee, and community safety standards are upheld by keeping abreast of incident reports, training and certification, and compliance documents. Safety compliance data should be part of the analytics that can be visualized for audits, accountability, and employee safety and training.

#8: End-to-End Operational Visibility in Real-Time When Needed
Data should be generated and recorded as well as visualized and presented from and to locations and devices that make the most sense for the job. For example, demand mobile-first dashboards that waste and recycling managers can monitor in the field, in real-time, to react “on the ground.” Events and incoming data should have appropriate user-experiences that are easy to see, hear, and react to. Vehicle locations, operational status, customer requests and issues, phone dispatches, driver reports, vehicle maintenance reports (automated or manual), and even weather and road reports need to be tracked, reported on, and correlated to daily performance, events, and profit and loss.

Enhance Your Business
As your organization evolves, choices you make around partnership and a software solution require a deep look at and evaluation of how that partner approaches data, analytics, and visualization and how their solution approaches and reports on vast amounts of data. Not only data you are creating now whose insights were not obvious, but also data that new workflows and business realities will create tomorrow. Do not settle for the status quo by merely targeting the reproduction of your existing reports. Thinking critically about alternative reporting and visualization approaches that more directly drive insight and action will enhance your business. | WA

Gary Dietz is a Product Marketing leader for the North American Market for the AMCS Group. For more than two decades, Gary has been at the forefront of enterprise software projects that have enhanced learning, security, and frontline worker experiences. He is also the author of a book about fathers whose children experience disability. He can be reached at [email protected].