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Are You Really Ready for Predictive Analytics?

Predictive analytics is the use of algorithms, AI, and machine learning to predict future events using data from the past. 

Meteorologists have been using predictive analytics for decades to forecast weather, but now EHS leaders are also using it to find patterns to identify risks, lower costs, and uncover opportunities. 

Despite its growing popularity, many companies are simply not ready for predictive analytics. Before you even consider jumping on this trend, you need to make sure that you have the foundation in place to be successful. 

If any of the following are true for you, you're not ready to implement predictive analytics:

1. You don't have a 'single source of truth'.

Trying to do predictive analytics without a centralized data management system is like trying to put together a puzzle without having all the pieces. 

IBM's Big Data and Analytics Hub underlines this point: "What we’ve learned is that many of the most common challenges associated with big data aren’t really analytics problems. In many cases, these problems are fundamental, even traditional, information integration problems.”

In order to get the complete picture, all your data must be integrated. One of the easiest ways to accomplish this is with a data warehouse tool.

A data warehouse is a central storage repository that houses all the data from across your company. It acts as the one source of data that everyone in the company uses for reporting, analytics, and decision making. Furthermore, the way data is collected is standardized so information is only entered once and remains consistent.

If you don't yet have a data warehouse in place, this should be priority #1. 

2. You haven't pinpointed which data you need to collect. 

Let's say you do have a 'single source of truth'. That's great! Now, you need to make sure you're collecting the right data.

In order to do this, you need to know which questions you're trying to answer. Are you trying to figure out if you'll be able to hit your corporate sustainability targets? You'll likely need to track energy and water usage, carbon emissions, and waste generated. 

Are you trying to prevent future injuries and incidents? You'll probably want to track both accidents and injuries, as well leading indicators like near misses. 

Once you know which questions you're trying to answer, you'll be able to get a better idea of what data you already have and what you still need to collect.

3. You're not able to visualize your data. 

The problem with big data is that it's, well, big. There's just too much of it to analyze by hand. That's where dashboards come in.

Dashboards allow you to quickly visualize and make sense of thousands of data points in a split second. Says data visualization expert Stephen Few in Forbes, “Numbers have an important story to tell. They rely on you to give them a clear and convincing voice.” 

Of course, all employees will have different levels of "data literacy". That's why its so important that users across your company have the ability to customize their dashboards and visualizations in order to understand the story behind the numbers. Dynamic dashboards are the key to allowing all users to analyze data on the fly.

>>> Click here to read more about the types of dashboards your peers are using to simplify data analysis and reporting. 

4. You don't leverage your existing data into action.

We've said it before: Big data isn't about turning data into intelligence — it's about turning data into action.

If you're not able to act on the data you have right now, you certainly aren't ready to act on future models and assumptions. Instead, your immediate focus should be on enabling employees to act on the data you've collected. 

Says Harvard Business Review, "Many of the best data-driven cultures have formalized the decision-making process, setting up standard procedures so that employees can obtain and correctly use the most appropriate data." 

These procedures may include escalation rules, automated alerts, and corrective action triggers -- all of which are made possible by the use of EHS management software

The bottom line

Predictive analytics is a growing trend in EHS management, but not all companies are ready for it. If you have all of the above in place, great -- you can consider implementing predictive analytics. If not, now is the time to focus on building a strong data culture within your organization. 

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