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GIGO in a whole new light! Location data’s role in waste management

First, there is the obvious allusion to WM’s core business as North America’s leading provider of integrated environmental solutions. “We are like the Amazon of waste,” explained Peter, focusing on “collections, disposal, and sustainability. And like them, our business involves a lot of pickup and delivery.” 

WM is indeed an industry behemoth serving nearly 20 million municipal, commercial, industrial, and residential customers through a network of hundreds of collection operations, transfer stations, landfill sites, and recycling plants. “Instead of delivering your packages, we pick up your garbage, and a lot of logistics go into efficiently disposing of things properly. That’s where data comes in.

Peter has a long and impressive background in data management, so he is well-suited for his WM role which includes data strategy and governance, data quality and MDM. Since WM is all about pickups and deliveries, he recognizes that location information plays a foundational role in overall planning. “There are regulations in various parts of our operations that dictate where we pick up, what we can pick up and where and what we can dispose of,” said Peter. “It’s not consistent. There may be some areas that mandate, depending on what we pick up, that we must dispose of it in certain locations.”  

Better know where you're going

Correct address information is also critical at the location execution level. “From an operational efficiency perspective, we want to know the location so we can optimize a driver’s route,” Peter explained. “The exact location is essential. The longitude and latitude, precisely. It makes our drivers more efficient. Routing optimization is one of the most important things for us. We are, at the core, a data logistics optimization company.”

During our discussion, the similarities between data management and waste management become increasingly apparent. “Garbage in, garbage out has a special meaning in my heart,” added my episode co-host Robert Dixon, Vice President of Professional Services at Loqate. “Especially when discussing waste management because that industry is all about the garbage. Data management is all about garbage data, and data quality is all about fixing the garbage data.”

Too much trash talk?

The second type of GIGO is more of a warning at the strategic level in terms of the way we talk about data to our business partners. You will not get good results from garbage data, nor will you get business support by using garbage data terminology.

“You need to be very careful about the buzzwords,” cautions Peter. “It’s not that complex. This is not nuclear physics. There’s a tendency for us to send the business to ‘data school.’”

This is solid advice for those who might think bragging about your latest analytics-graph-hub-fabric-mesh will bring you closer to your business stakeholders. For example, “master and reference data are vital,” continues Peter, “but I try not to tell [the business] that we are implementing MDM because that’s not what they’re looking for.”

As a group, we may be overreaching in demanding that the business learn the data side. “Rather than say that the business needs to understand data,” Peter suggested, “the data team needs to lead the charge or at least meet in the middle. We need to avoid the inclination to tell them exactly how the plumbing works.”

It’s not about warm and fuzzies

If we don’t get specific on the exact value data brings to an organization, our business partners might misinterpret our intentions as rubbish or worse. “You always have to be afraid of the enterprise syndrome,” warned Peter. “You can’t just implement something saying, ‘it’s good for the enterprise.’ That’s just like saying, ‘it warms my heart.’ If you announce, ‘I’m from the enterprise,’ it’s like saying, ‘I’m from the IRS; I'm here to help you.’”

Peter’s pragmatic view of value is the north star guiding him out of the wasteland of buzzy data-speak. “I think there's always an assumption that we must add buzzwords and make it complicated, which turns off businesses. It's almost talking down to them. I always look at myself as a value-added component. You already have experts in a company. We have to support them with our knowledge, not necessarily introduce new words.”

The connection between data and garbage goes back well before computers. “Data is like garbage,” opined none other than Mark Twain. “You’d better know what you are going to do with it before you collect it.” 

Peter clearly knows what to do and how to talk about data in a business context. “Solve component problems, think strategically,” he said. “Implement local, implement for the business, talk to business about exactly what they need.”

In fact, getting goodness from your data is less about talking and more about listening. “In many cases, [the business] knows how the problem needs to be solved. They just need a catalyst to help them do it. They don't need somebody coming in and saying, ‘I'm the smartest guy in the room.’ The way we can help is to listen.”

Whether it’s cleaning up garbage data, avoiding data trash talk, or being a great data partner to the Waste Management business, the future seems bright for Peter. “I think it's a stirring time in data. My excitement for the future of business processes, people, technology, and data keeps me going.

As an expert in both data management and data speak, Peter is setting an example that could compel us to put a more positive spin on what GIGO stands for. Let’s call it goodness in, goodness out!

Watch the full interview with Peter Kapur on LoqateTV: Ask the Experts to learn more.

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