Video Highlight: Wallowing in the Data

Annie Donovan of Coop Metrics explains why to some degree it doesn’t matter if a data point is about financial or impact data.

The highlight was taken from our January webinar with experts on data at work for enterprises. The purpose of the panel was to discuss the nature of mission-driven and finance-driven data. Read more below… “Really, a lot of this isn’t about the data. The ability to use data and to be data-driven or even be data-informed, is about culture.

So we’re thinking a lot about the sociology of it. How do you get organizations to feel comfortable? Some of it is technical, surely you have to have the capacity, but what we’re trying to do is hand-hold on the wallowing piece of it, because the fact is when you’re going to produce all this data, no one knows what it means until you get in there and start trying to figure that out together.

I’ll just tell a story of our very first customer and the way that this company, CoopMetrics, got started. It was back in the late 90’s, with Consumer Food Cooperatives, who had created the market for natural food retail. It was not a market that existed in the mainstream; they created it. And then Whole Foods came along and became a very aggressive competitor. In fact, they went to the food co-ops and said, “We love this model you built, and now we’re going to eat your lunch, because we’re expanding across the country.” They did not take that sitting down. They said, ‘Well, what can we do to compete against a big-box operator like this?’

They decided that one thing they could do was start comparing data and figuring out ways that they could stay small and local and act bigger from a financial point of view. So we built for them the methodology for them to share their data, and we didn’t stop at that. We created the mechanism, and what really made it work was bringing everybody together around their data and having the produce managers talk to produce managers and dig into their data and make meaning of what was there and then figure out how they could work together and build trust.

Eventually what they did was they started purchasing together. They do joint buying now, and they’ve created purchasing power, a much stronger financial position for themselves in the market. So if you look at the wholesale level, Whole Foods is the biggest player, but right behind Whole Foods are the food co-ops. And it just so happened that the tide has turned as far as people wanting to be connected to their community, they want local, and now their brand works better out there. In the meantime they weathered a major storm by being able to collaborate, and in order to do that, they had to have financial transparency, and they needed a data tool to be able to do that. So that’s a story of the power of data when you can bring it together.

But how that was made real was through a process of ‘wallowing in the data’ and figuring out what it means for that sector, what it means for those individual businesses, and it allowed them to remain viable. I think that when it comes down to it, a data point is a data point and whether it’s financial or impact, it doesn’t matter so much. The only reason to separate out the discussion of those two is it’s easier to collect financial data than it is to collect impact data. But beyond that, what does any of it mean? We have to sit down together and figure that out.

Editor’s note: The above is an excerpt from our January 2014 webinar titled The Power of Information. However, videos from Spreecast are no longer available due to a change in business model.

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