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Using Product Data For Product Managers And Engineering Operations

digital twin and it's importance cover image
Published by Chris McHale
on March 3, 2022

Here is the VLOG transcript for Chris McHale, CEO of SPKAA, and District Manager, Ed Chung, discussing the importance of data, dashboards, PowerBI and visualisation tools for Product Managers And Engineering Operations.

Hi everybody! I’m Chris McHale I’m co-founder and CEO of SPK and I’m here with Ed Chung one of my favorites. Ed is officially now a district manager for the applications engineering group. Did I get that right Ed? I don’t know. Oh, all right we’re not too big on titles here but anyway but what Ed is responsible for well why don’t you say what you’re responsible for Ed just so people know what you’re where you’re from and what you’re doing. yeah I work with directly with engineering groups and managers and product development teams in order to ensure that  you know we always say we want to help them bring products to market faster but what I you know also do on the flip side is hey I remove things that slow them down yes great yeah that’s a good way to put it and I’ll add on to what you just said you’re  you have huge you and your team not just you of course have huge expertise in the applications and systems tools if you want that engineers use to develop product and service and bring it to market fair yes so what we were starting to talk about earlier that I thought would be a great topic for today is the whole area of data in product and service development companies and so what we were starting to talk about before we were recording this but let’s go back and rehash it  is the whole idea of what the what maybe what we could do is paint a current state of the world right now from what I see as a CEO talking to other CEOs  and then what the ultimate desire outcome would be if one could wave a magic wand and we did do a bunch of this work for ourselves so we can actually see from the experience so what I see in terms of the lay of the land out there with data is that lots of smaller and mid-market companies I’m going to exclude the enterprise for right now have spent a lot of time and effort really good time and effort making sure that they have systems in place to help manage their work yeah so you may have if you’re in a product company you may have a product data management system with design authoring tool you may have another set of systems that manage your software development you may have another set of systems that manage all your financial data if you make product you’re going to have an ERP or something like that that’s managing that aspect of it if you are on the service side you’ll have some kind of system that manages your service workers if you will and  the work that they’re doing workflow there  you’ll have a financial set of systems and so on you get the picture so  CEOs and their their leadership has spent a bunch of time doing that and have done it pretty well I think in some cases and what I see and tell you what you think where it’s left them most of them when I talk to them is I’ve got all of these different systems and they’re doing all this really great work for my people in these various areas and departments and they do decent reporting out of each of those systems but I don’t have any holistic view or dashboard if you want to use a fun term of what’s going on in my company I can’t relate these different silos and the data from these different silos in a really quick and efficient way and when you can’t do that quickly and efficiently you end up not having those insights so that’s kind of how I see it from here what what do you see Ed I know I think it’s yeah it is slightly different words but it’s the same thing right I think traditionally you know  you hired a person right didn’t you hired a person and you said hey what’s your job your full-time job is every single month grab these 18 xl files copy and paste them here

so I’m always you know to say that they don’t you have all these disparate systems and either you’re spending those managers right it depends on title and company but manager is spending too much time pulling out all the information or their information is delayed because hey they’ve got this thing you know johnny updates the reports once every month so therefore I’m one month you know behind in my in my visibility so I definitely see that yeah and then just just to add on to that last thing you said there we talk about leading well lots of people talk about this leading indicators and lagging indicators of information and so the lagging is usually where people go first like what’s my plot like what’s my gross margin look like what’s what are my what’s my inventory what’s what all my product related data look like last month now I’m looking at it now right but the leading indicators are the ones that really allow you to plan and actually take action and make decisions that can affect your company your business better I think I think one of the challenges they’re also having now is that this isn’t new right that this this idea of like collecting data and so  I i don’t want to say everyone did this but for some for some situations they ask the let’s say an engineer they ask an engineer what kind of data can our PDM PLM what kind of data can our system generate you know time of this time of this time of this every single action every single touch and they recorded all this data because the engineer thought possibly correctly possibly not I don’t know but engineers love collecting data I want to collect it I collected all this data for you and now my CEO has all this data but it’s not meaningful because it’s not  it might actually be too much data right I think maybe somewhere in there let me say it that way like I think I might lots of people have too much data yep that’s right and so somewhere in there how do you go from we talk internally we always talk about business intelligence right it’s not just business knowledge it’s not just data it’s being able to digest that data something actionable in our own case we’re a services company not a not as much of a product company but we do a product but so our product is our people’s intelligence and their time really to get right down to it right and so we ourselves spent well I’ll speak for myself probably the last year or year and a half  doing this exact same exercise in our own company where we said okay I had I had reports I had dashboards of this and you know reports of that and graphs of this and graphs of that and they were really good and they gave me good information but it was as if in order to how do I put this in order to draw get the right insights out of that data I had to go through a bunch of mental push-ups to correlate things in my head or ask somebody can you do this for me or do that for me and so then I would get to some information that was helpful where these different disparate data sources were correlated but nber one it took too much time so it wasn’t immediate wasn’t real time that was the first issue but the bigger issue which I really didn’t see at first was that my people that were helping me run this company didn’t have access to that data in a real-time fashion and because they didn’t see it and they didn’t really know what was going on they couldn’t draw the right insights and make the right decisions and that once we had all of this pulled together we used power bi to do that you could use tableau or something else too but once we went through that work of doing the data engineering creating and making sure that the data got to where it needed to go and then using power bi in this case to create  very simple straightforward visuals on what was going on and then share those right with the people in the company and then all work off that one dashboard and say okay what’s going on here or what’s going on there and then you’re all on the same page so to speak and it sounds so simple when I say it and yet I don’t see this being done I mean even we were really doing it for a while and now we’re doing it I’m you know thrilled but why what do you think about that because you’re on the other side where you didn’t have it either and then I started to do it and then share it with you what was your experience with that I like to think of this as two separate problems right I split it in half and one half is collecting data right and I think that is a large but easy problem right hypothetically I can hire we talk what was it I think his name was johnny we could hire johnny to collect data in excel write it in a notebook and then type it in another excel you know it’s a big problem but collecting the data is something that we can do and it’s super important but I would like it I think the big change here was  in the past in the past one and a half years the flip side of that is the is the asking the right questions right where we ask the right questions of you know what is our ebitda what is our cost of goods sold so to speak right we use different terms and when you ask those questions and you get to you know one of the things you just said was  not everyone knows the answers to those things right because because my as a CEO as a company right what is the thing that’s slowing us down what is the what is the delay I think in  in the company in places I work with right it’s always like what is the thing that’s causing my delay in  in product release and that that question right there  ask the question first then ask the question and even generate that data manually hey what caused the delay in this one thing it took me 45 days to research it but I found this thing that’s not useful but now I know what question was asked I know how to answer that question 45 days ago, you know when you answer that question 45 days ago I bet I can put in some intel some power bi graphs and get you that every one day right right yeah exactly.

yeah and we were I was just talking to somebody who’s a I think she’s a CEO of a services company  happens to be financial services but anyway  she was saying kind of the same thing she was saying  we have all this data we have excel spreadsheets and we have a system over here that collects data and we have a CRM that collects data and we have you know we use quickbooks or whatever the various things are it kind of doesn’t matter right but she had this issue and she was drowning in it you know she was drowning in not being able to correlate this data or understand what insights to pull from it because there was too much it was in these different places and then as you know the minute you get into excel spreadsheets too which times you can’t avoid but the minute you get into those you know there’s a delay or you know that there’s always a question about you know accuracy of data and so on so forth but but but what I was getting at here is that she explains this whole situation and then she kind of said well how do we start even and I said well you start by exactly what you said I said what questions do you need answers to what are the most burning questions you have right now like today if I knew the answer to x I would feel better and I would actually be able to make a decision  on something else but my gut you know which is what you end up doing then right and that kind of took this whole effort down to simple steps and that’s the other thing is I think people get overwhelmed by oh what do I have to do here when really just like what you said what’s your give me one question what question you want to answer today and just work on that question pull that in and figure out where the data is pull it into something that’s visual and then go on to the next question and then go on to the next one and keep pulling them into the same place that’s important  so that you have and some of this is kind of psychological isn’t it isn’t it I i was struck by that  yeah yeah I absolutely agree it’s like  how to say it if you see it on the table then you use it and if you see I was just talking to someone else right the kitchenaid mixer the mixers on the shelf I don’t need a mixer but if it’s on the table somehow it gets used every day right and it’s the same thing if you have to go get your data everywhere you won’t you won’t I love using dashboards all the time a separate dashboard if necessary but one dashboard would be great yes oh and sometimes you need separate ones it gets too busy but here’s the key thing here’s a psychological part if it’s all in the same area place where I go to this website or I go to this page and at least it’s all available on that page that’s a big step forward but then even better I may say oh look at this thing over here and this thing over here that may be correlated those would be interesting of course then you can get into you can start to use things like machine learning to look for those correlations for you if you have enough data and it’s complicated enough  those are our tools we use right where we say okay let’s let’s at least gather it it’s in a data lake and then you can apply usually cloud is easiest AWS or azure but you can apply machine learning cloud tools to start to look for those  those  great pieces of informational correlations for you know what I mean yes well great oh go ahead what happened to your friend who is drowning in all the data  she’s  she’s engaging with us at this point just to see there’s ways we can help her and we’re going to start with that one burning question see if we can answer the one burning question and then move on from there which I think was a relief to her because I think she thought this was going to be an overwhelming project but like all such things you can take it a bite at a time and get somewhere with it well we’re probably out of time Ed and I know you have things to do but thanks for joining me I appreciate it and sharing your insights on data insights or data engineering sorry that was not the best I think it’s great I’m happy to talk about these things  I don’t know it’s a lot of fun yeah all right thanks great goodbye.

 

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