Manufacturers feel that working with their data is hard. But most don’t relate this symptom to a lacking data infrastructure.

Just as with our health, we don’t know what disease we have. We are only aware of our symptoms (fever, tiredness, etc.). A healthcare professional then establishes the disease based on these symptoms.

So if a lacking data infrastructure is the disease, then what are its symptoms?

The most telling sign I come across is workers complaining about a wild growth of Excel files used for all sorts of analytics. In analytics use cases, Excel files are often created to perform a process that isn’t supported by the current data infrastructure. Often we need some information or calculation that we can’t get from existing systems, so we build our own Excel solution.

For a one-off thing this Excel is a great tool because it’s quick and everyone is familiar with it. However, when used for business-critical processes, over time the collection of Excel files evolves into an unorganized mess. (The problem is compounded when Excel is used to store data long-term.)

I find asking a company about their use of Excel in data analytics is a great way to gain insight into their current data infrastructure.