Data Is Useless Unless It Underpins Decisions

A lot of people ask us the question, “What data can I collect with your system?”. We almost always counter with, “Data is useless unless it underpins decisions, what decisions do you want to make?”. Most people say back, “I’ve never thought about it like that” and the discussion that follows opens their minds to a different level of business and a new way to view their sheep farm, starting them on a different pathway that will make their journey a lot smoother and more profitable.

The crux of it is this:

Data doesn’t make you money, decisions do. And when you shift focus to decisions and away from data, everything changes.

In this blog of a two-part series, we will talk about defining your future plans based on a set of decisions that are required along the way. In the second part, we will explore the different decisions some of our elite breeders are making so you can, ‘look over the neighbours fence’.

The big takeaways from part one are:

  • Buy decisions not machines
  • Collecting data costs you money
  • Define your decisions and purchases on an immediate, 12mo and 5 year horizon with one system that can enable you to achieve every step
  • Tailor-made technology gets easier over time not harder. Find a specific system for your needs

So let’s turn our focus now to the mindset and the commitment to think decisions not data.

Buy Decisions Not Machines:

People are almost always very clear that they want to buy a drafter or a stick reader, but are muddy on the decisions that they are buying that piece of technology to drive.

There is too much optimism that just buying the tools will be the silver bullet to a more profitable enterprise, but this couldn’t be further from the truth.

As farmers, you’re used to buying machines, and that’s ok, but this thinking can hurt you if you don’t know precisely how they fit into the bigger picture of your data management system both now and into the future.

Whilst we speak with a lot of people that haven’t started with tech or EID and we help them get started easily, we also unfortunately deal with the other side as well.

40% of our new clients are moving away from the clunkiness and complexity of a cobbled together system from many other companies.

Too many people we speak with say, “I’ve got all of these pieces of technology from other companies, I have collected heaps of data, but it seems to be everywhere and nowhere at once. I can’t make decisions simply with it, there has to be an easier way!”

This is an incredibly frustrating position to be in for them, especially when they’ve spent ten-twenty-fifty thousand on this stuff, but it’s completely avoidable if you simply move your focus from collecting data, to focusing on decisions and the tools that will allow you to make them.

Whilst from the outside the actions look similar (buying technology and using it), the outcomes can be vastly different (complexity and cost increasing vs simplicity and profit driving)

To avoid this, we cannot stress enough that all farmers need to stop thinking they need to buy pieces of technology or collect data, and start defining the decisions that they want to make, then find the technology solution that enables those decisions in the easiest possible manner.

Collecting Data Costs You Money:

Too many people focus on collecting data and that is just what they get: Data in spreadsheets, in notebooks, session files, usb sticks, different versions of the same file, different softwares and on 5 different pieces of technology.

But the problem is, collecting data doesn’t make you money!

The process of collecting data is a commitment, of time, effort, energy and money, and if you do not see money come back directly from these efforts, then it’s only a commitment to losing money and making things more complicated.

You can collect all of the data in the world, but until you use your skill to turn it into a decision, you’ll never get anywhere and only complicate the process.

Oftentimes, the investment of money will drive a level of commitment that will be needed to drive an ROI, but a tool is inherently useless without it being used in the right way.

You still have to collect the right data, in the right way, ask the right questions of it and bring it to life with a good decision.

EID, Tech and Data provide ZERO potential if it is not used to drive decisions!

But unfortunately, too much of the tech out there was never designed to turn data into decisions.

It’s sole purpose was to always be a data collection device for a select few pieces of data.

So everywhere you turn, you are seeing ‘data collection this’ and ‘data collection that’ and nothing about actually turning it into decisions.

It is leading farmers astray and this is not serving breeders at all.

The quality of your outcomes is determined by the quality of your breeding, selection and management decisions.

This is what a proper data management system allows: quality decisions easily.

Each machine is only one piece in the bigger picture, something we went over in a previous post here.

At a minimum, technology is a labour-saving device in the pursuit of driving the same decisions that we are making now.

At it’s best, a good system will enable you to completely revolutionise the way you view your sheep and your farm and where you want to take it, either through massive clarity and simplicity and/or enabling you to drive forward more powerfully and profitably than ever before.

If you are just about to begin your EID and technology journey, then having this thinking will be incredibly useful for you to define what decisions you need to make and assess your technology purchases through that lens.

If you already have the technology but you’re in the position where it all seems too hard to make it work together, where you may be making decisions but not in enough quantity or simplicity, then it is never too late to change to a better system for your specific needs that allows those decisions. It is not your fault, it is the fault of your system!

We have helped hundreds of people in both of these positions successfully implement technology either from nothing to elite breeding, or switch gears to a different system and reach a level of simplicity and control they didn’t think possible.

The Three Horizons of Decision Making:

It’s not enough just to think decisions, we have to look at the timeframes surrounding these decisions and plan for the future. After all, you’re not buying throw away widgets.

When you think about technology purchases that allow those decisions to be made, we look on 3 horizons: Replacement, Enhancement and Achievement.

It helps to break it down like this, and then at each timeframe, use the steps of your management calendar to open your mind to the possibilities at each stage.

  • Replacement means doing what you are currently doing but making the decisions and the work come easier than what you are doing. If you have no EID or technology at all, this may be just getting rid of notebooks or having to remember tag numbers. If you’ve got a cobbled system but are still at a high level, then it is about attaining that simpler than ever before. This is an immediate benefit from the first job
  • Enhancement is normally the next step of, ‘I’d like to be able to do xyz’ which normally involves 1-2 things that seem like logical, within-reach decisions that are currently out of reach due to lack of your system or lack of time. These decisions must be at a level that you can commit to consistently doing what is required to bring them to fruition
  • Achievement decisions are those that when you look at a 5-10 year timeframe are the decisions that really excite you about what could be possible for your farm. These may seem impossible but inspire a sense of excitement inside of you. This could be something like, “no sheep stays on our property if it doesn’t have above 1.8 lambs scanned per joining event” or it could be “Any ram bought will be in the top 5% of the industry as our ewes are in the top 10%”.

So as a bit of homework between now and the next blog look at your management calendar, and then analyse the decisions you’d like to make at each step along the way.

Let your curiosity run free here and don’t feel held back by the ‘how’ of making it happen, just focus on the decision and the ’why’ behind it when thinking about the 3 timelines above.

Tailor-Made Technology gets easier over time:

The biggest issue is that breeders that are data or technology focussed and not decision focussed often purchase technologies based on only the replacement step, but this can be even more problematic because it only gets them a stone throw down the road.

This then puts them in a position where they may outgrow the capabilities in 6-12mo as they are trying to achieve something bigger, and they feel exactly the same way as they did 6-12mo ago.

They are now wondering why? Destined to repeat another purchase for the replacement step they get stuck in a bandaid loop: Trying to add one more piece to solve the pain of the current situation but end up increasing complexity at the same time until they become constrained and stuck.

This is where they have hit what we call a technology ceiling.

Now, they are stuck having invested good money in different technologies that don’t allow them to go to the enhancement or achievement step.

If there is one thing you can take away from this it is that you need to purchase technologies for the enhancement step with an ability to scale to the achievement step without adding complexity.

Buy once, cry once.

This doesn’t mean being flippant with purchases and over-capitalising, it means putting thought into the progression of your sheep farm and the decisions you would like to make over a 5-10 year horizon.

If it is unclear to look that far ahead then at least define your replacement and enhancement decisions, then lean on the side of extra capability to allow possibility later, rather than penny pinching on the price that will help now but end up producing constraint later, there’s a reason the saying, “poor man pays twice” is still truer today than ever.

This is one big reason we have built a scaleable system that can grow with you over time, but the capability is such that you can go as far as you want to without hitting that dreaded technology ceiling!

Before anyone can become a client with us, we need to have a meeting first such that together, we can plan a proper pathway forward for you and make sure it’s the right fit.

We speak with you 1-1 to get an understanding of what decisions you are going to make over your journey, determine where the best starting point is for you, implement the system, get you trained one job at a time and then off you go.

As you gain confidence, clarity and the level of decisions you want to make, you can add extra pieces of technology, or collect different data and actually SIMPLIFY your system in the process. It is a completely different experience than most people have! This is the benefit of tailor made technology systems for sheep breeders.

If you want to be a decision driven breeder, an elite breeder, and want to learn more about a tailor made system to allow you to be your best, then book a chat with us to learn more.