Chapter 2

The challenges of inflexible systems and too much data

The amount of data a retailer has to process has reached almost unimaginable heights. In retail, approximately 40 petabytes of data are generated every hour about products, operations, inventory, sales, customers, and the marketplace.6 This data floods in from a variety of channels—including web, social media, mobile, affiliates, and Point-of-Sale (POS) systems—that each store data separately.

Many retailers struggle to unify and manage this data, so they end up juggling multiple systems. Not surprisingly, data often doesn’t match up and any query or report might result in multiple answers.

Rob Kuster, CFO, Welkoop BV: 

“There is more and more data available, which is a really big difference from 10 years ago. But data is still not information. The danger is that you also get lost in the possibilities that are available and in the amount of data that you collect. How do you extract the most important insights from it? And how do you make relevant information insightful?”

Without real-time data, you can’t get an accurate picture of how business is performing

To compound these challenges, many retailers use spreadsheets and platforms that depend on manual data entry. In fact, 77 percent of finance departments across industries rely on laborintensive manual processes to collect and utilize data. This is problematic because when an employee inevitably enters the incorrect information, like on an invoice, the retail team might not notice the error or correct it for a week or more. In an industry that often trades in high volumes, even these types of minor errors can compound quickly, significantly impacting the bottom line.

Typically, it falls on the retail departments to collect all the data, produce some version of truth, and generate a report—usually two to three weeks after the fact. As a result, when executives need to look at the data and make a decision, they are always working retrospectively. Without real-time data, they can’t get an accurate picture of how their business is performing and can easily assume it’s making money when it’s really not. When data doesn’t reflect reality, it can affect all departments across the organization, resulting in problems like restricted cash flow, inventory shortages, and missed sales targets.

Top 3 Data Challenges

Finance executives are at a disadvantage when it comes to data:
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