High-grade prospects for those who refine data gold
An organisation’s data is its gold, says Craig Lefoe – but while everyone knows how to find the gold, not everyone knows how to mine and refine it.
“There’s a lot of focus on collection of data, but not a lot of focus on utilising it once it’s collected. What we do is extract an organisation’s data, from multiple systems, and combine it together to get an end-to-end view of the business. Then we interrogate that data, and garner actionable business intelligence and insights from it.”
Lefoe is a director of cloud-based business intelligence consultancy Toustone, which is dedicated to enabling businesses to make better decisions, by making better use of their data.
“We want to make a business’s data more useful than it has ever been,” he says.
“First, we extract data from all of a customer’s systems, transform it into one integrated view, and then we query that data to produce a total visual reporting solution for the business. The customer has an end-to-end view of their business: they can see their business evolving daily, see the key drivers of their results, and quickly see insights that come from that data.”
Toustone’s proprietary systems extract a business’s data, load it into Toustone’s cloud environment, where it is cleaned, validated and mapped.
“Once we transform that data, we build it up into views, and produce the visualisation over the top of it. Then we work with customers to help them generate insights from the data, and build a dashboard based on that, so that they can track their process based on their business decisions. By automating the whole process, we find solutions to their problems in areas where they might not have thought of looking.”
Lefoe gives the example of Toustone’s work in disability services. “We work with National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) providers, who provide supported independent living (SIL) places for clients in homes – they provide people to make sure that the clients have the right services and can live within that home.
“The providers have had to fill-in a government spreadsheet to receive funding in 12-month blocks."
“That spreadsheet is broken down by house, by client, and by carer ratio that that person needs based on their disability. The issue with that is, once you submit that, you get approval, the government says, ‘here’s $X,’ but then the providers have struggled to administer their offering.
“If they have resources that don’t have work, or aren’t rostered properly, they still have to pay wages – but they’re not recovering that money from the government.”
To solve this need, Toustone built a data loader that picks up operating data from the spreadsheet, generating real-time reporting and forecasts.
“The providers can now see, in half-hour staff rostering blocks, whether they are providing the services to clients to match the dollar funding from the government.
“They can see whether they are profitable or losing money, by house and by client, in half-hour blocks; they can see a ‘heat-map’ by house, that shows whether they’re losing money for that half-hour or that half-day or day, and they can see where they’ve made rostering mistakes, from a staff-to-client ratio point of view. It projects out 12 months, so they can start to correct issues before they actually happen.”
The same principles apply with Toustone’s agricultural clients, Lefoe says. “We extract data from multiple sources – it could be on-farm weather sensors, it could be your accounting system, it could be data from your machinery – and integrate it such that it supports timely decisions.
“You have a total farm visual reporting solution, and for a particular input, if the efficiency of that is maximised, that directly flows through to profitability. Let’s say it’s tractor data from your fleet – for example, fuel utilisation, revs, idle time – and you can clearly see how to reduce your fuel costs and your idle time, that can help you plow the paddock in less time, which saves on your costs and lowers your risk,” he says.
Whatever the business, Lefoe says Toustone tries to match the technology to the customer’s decision-making process and how they can utilise the data.
“You could be on the train, and see on your phone or your laptop an exact view of where your business is, and it’s ready for you every morning, rather than waiting weeks or months for a report. It’s really about making better decisions, from information that has always been there, but wasn’t being gathered, or utilised properly,” he says.
Toustone has worked closely with RSM: Peter Nicol, director of the business advisory division in Albury, sits on its advisory board.
“RSM has provided us with support to our financial processes, our accounting, and has opened up its network, both internal and external, to us as well, which has given us opportunities. It’s a great relationship, and we’re actually now working together on a project that combines our respective skills,” says Lefoe.