At the end of World War II, information doubled about every 25 years. Today, average human knowledge is doubling every 13 months. According to studies from IBM, the buildout of the “Internet of things” will lead to the doubling of knowledge every 12 hours!
Unfortunately, the more information we have, the more confusing decision-making becomes. It’s not a bad thing to have rapid information, but we have to be able to metabolize it.
Benchmark Against Yourself. I’m always interested to see what will happen when I take the exact same information and place it in front of five different people. After they have time to analyze the data, I’ll ask for an interpretation. Without fail, we have three to five different answers and solutions. Technology has made accessing information the easy part. From here forward, though, our challenge will be to determine how to make the best decisions from all of that data.
Many tout the value of Big Data and benchmarking. Although there is tremendous value in this information overall, one must question which parts of it will help us make the most money on individual farms. The real test is to aggregate the most relevant information that truly reflects farm situations. For example, a big challenge with benchmarking is comparing a farm from Ohio with a farm from Nebraska. Even comparisons between your operation and that of a producer across the road can be a challenge.
There are so many variables that can pollute data even on a micro scale. That’s not to say we shouldn’t try to compare some information, but it’s critical to compare apples to apples. Furthermore, most operations could benefit more from benchmarking against themselves than others. It might be more effective to spend time and money to aggregate yield data and overlay it with soil types, fertility and seeding rates to refine management zones. That’s especially true if you build out your own trended information over time. It really depends on where you’re at with information management.
Another big challenge with all of this available information is choosing the correct partners. There are endless opportunities to purchase assistance to accumulate data. Assembling data is one thing; having the support and know-how to do something with it is another.
Whether you’re looking at variable-rate prescriptions or detailed financial ratios, the people you choose to work with will be more important than the information itself. The information will become less expensive, while the people we choose to work with will become more valuable to our operations. Therefore, it’s even more important that we choose the correct people to support our investment. Massive amounts of data will never out-value good decision-making.
Ask the Right Questions. If you are deciding whether to purchase services from an information company, be sure to ask several questions.
Among them: What information will make my operation more profitable right now? What information could help me make better decisions? If I choose your company as my information supplier, how much personal support will I receive? Is the information I’m receiving specific to my farm, or is it data aggregated from other operations? If I leave your company, will I be able to I retain all of my data and information electronically?
Obviously, there are more questions to consider, but the point is to make sure your technology partners provide more than just information.
Regardless of how fast technology doubles our information, one thing is for sure: It will change how we do business forever.