How did we do last year?

How did we do last year?

< Back to Articles | Topics: Working for you | Contributors: Mark Fraser, Chair of the Board | This is a guest post from T4G Limited
(Member since 2004) | Published: January 1, 2018

This is a guest post from T4G Limited
(Member since 2004)

Anecdotal information only gets you so far, data tells the whole story

As is tradition in January, we celebrate the strength, diversity, ingenuity, leadership, success and risk-taking initiatives of our business community. We kick off the New Year with the Halifax Business Awards, where out of a couple of hundred nominees, six gold medals are awarded that honour risk taking (new business), global impact (export), serious brain power (innovation), entrepreneurialism (small business), results (business of the year) and leadership (business leader).

For these organizations, we know 2017 was a great year, and they have the data to prove it. But outside of awards celebrations, how do we really know if our business community is thriving?

We’ve heard a lot of anecdotal evidence that our community is indeed thriving, if the cranes dotting the skyline are any evidence. Immigration continues at a pace that we need. Provincial budgets are balanced, and for anyone that has driven around the city in the last six months, the road construction and repair business is firing on all cylinders. This is great — but we need more than anecdotes to make smarter decisions moving forward.

Some of the best minds in our region delivered the Now or Never Report and challenged all of us to act now, to improve our long-term economic and demographic future. The Now or Never Report became a rallying cry for change, and although it’s not part of the daily news cycle anymore, many in the business community continue to frame conversations about the long-term around the goals presented in this report.

To their credit, the One Nova Scotia Collective has been tracking our progress against these goals through a dashboard of “objective, reliable data on our collective progress,” which you can see at Unfortunately, the adjective “recent” is missing from the dashboard description, and without a better kind of data, we will always be playing catch up.

This is classic DRIP: Data Rich, Information Poor. If the business community is expected to make changes so these goals can be achieved, then direct and as close to immediate feedback on their progress is essential. We have a time imperative in front of us, and as a result, we need to know at a much faster rate if our actions are having the expected, or at least intended, impact.

Of the 19 measures that the dashboard tracks, only nine have data that is what I would call “somewhat recent.” This is generally 2016 data. It is now 2018, and business does not evaluate performance based on something that happened up to 24 months ago. We can do better.

Of the remaining 10, the data is even older, or completely absent. Four of the goals have no measure at all — its status is “Metric Under Development.” We can do way better.

To be specific, there are goals that we are not even measuring: New business startups, employment rates for First Nations and African Nova Scotians, research and development partnerships and lead long-term planning process.

In my experience, inquires about why we have such old (or non-existent) data sources are met with a familiar, “The data doesn’t exist” or “The report that we use is not published yet.” If that is the case after almost four years, what should we use?

Well, I would like to call bull on that. Data drives business today. Data-driven decision making is what is allowing some businesses to thrive over their competition. Decision making without data is guessing. Companies live or die by getting the planning right, which means they remove as much guessing from the process as possible.

The data that’s needed to tell the OneNS Collective story is available. We just need to be creative about getting it into our hands. We need to change which reports we rely on. We need to ask our business leaders and citizens for help. We need to react and change what we are doing to move the results forward.

We can do a much better job of finding out how we are doing, and we need to do it much quicker. The demographic challenges that the Now or Never Report present to us are here, and we can’t rely on old data to guide us on our plan adjustments. We need data that tells the now story, otherwise it might as well be never.

Let’s do better. Let’s look to our award finalists for inspiration and validation. Something tells me they will agree.

Mark Fraser is Chair of the Board of Directors of the Halifax Chamber of Commerce and Executive Vice President at T4G Limited. Follow Mark on Twitter at @mark_fraser

< Back to Articles | Topics: Working for you

Stay Connected

Subscribe to our weekly e-newsletter and receive important updates on Halifax Chamber events, Member benefits and advocacy news.