Data Overload—has that ever hit you? Maybe like a ceaseless tidal wave?

On the editorial side of the aisle, it’s fair to say that the occupational hazard is more generally an overload of information than data per se. If not held in check, reactions can lead toward unreasonably nostalgic yearning for accoutrements of the slower, pre or early electronic era: ink wells, letter openers, linotype, even the now outdated "bluelines."

But especially for those on the operator side, data more precisely understood is the challenge. “There are too many reports, huge attached files and data coming from different platforms (billing system, network monitoring, CPE surveillance, etc,” writes Charter VP Network Operations and Engineering Services Keith Hayes, in the current issue of Communications Technology. "Not only are these data voluminous, but also they often do not even match."

What operational leaders need, continues Hayes, is some way to "identify what is really the most compelling issue or two and then find methods of extracting actionable performance data." And to do so, he recommends borrowing "some wisdom and focus from the medical profession." Life, not death "Think triage" is the theme of this article. Consider the emergency room physician, someone who runs a few reliable tests, takes vital signs, sets clear-cut calls to action and remains urgent about the bottom line. In that scenario, the bottom line is life or death. Pinpointing and addressing the causes that lead to that latter, undesirable outcome is the immediate, straightforward modus operandi.

To see how Hayes translates that mindset to the field of cable operations, you’ll need to read the article. But allow us to highlight one figure, in part because the version that’s posted on our Web site is the more complete version of the one that ended up in the print version of the magazine.

In Figure 4, titled "Service call rate and OCF (operating cash flow) impact," you’ll see a dual Y-axis bar, color-coded chart with an embedded table that ranks 10 systems (Alpha through Juliette) according to monthly service call truck roll rates. (Double click, it gets bigger.) What’s missing from the print version is the gray bars in the larger graph; sorry about that.

It’s arguably a complicated figure, but then again, the problem of data overload itself is by definition full of complexities. As a graphical representation that effectively cuts through rows columns of otherwise noisy data to nail one of the most urgent "vital signs," however, this one is hard to beat. Wider application An interesting point that Hayes makes upfront is that while the data addressed in this article are "HFC operations-focused, the methods will work in any functional area, from customer care to marketing to sales."

Fair enough, but we’re thinking even bigger picture here. The method would appear to work, for instance, in an editorial framework. Hours or days past deadlines, weeks and months of expenses un-filed, and absolute number of e-mails unopened and undeleted—plug in certain numbers and you’ve got a flat-lined (never mind bluelined) editor.

Until such time, however, as Hayes turns this article into a best-selling business book, inks a deal with FranklinCovey, launches data-overload executive management retreats and partners up with Oprah’s time management guru Julie Morgenstern, we’ll just keep "Think Triage" as our little cable tech ops secret. – Jonathan Tombes

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