Our data journey:

How data and business intelligence tools can inform and influence food safety

Our-data-journey Our-data-journey
Dave Hill
Analytics Manager
Jun 07, 2023

As powerful as data can be, oftentimes data output is mismanaged.  Whether it’s the timeliness that data is received or the misuse in the way data is presented. It can be all too easy to under-provide or over-saturate the end user with information. In the majority of these cases, the end user does not receive the intended message and ultimately stops engaging the data.

With clients, the standard is to conduct quarterly business reviews to cover insights into chemical consumption and observational data collected from food safety and sanitation surveys.  However as business reviews evolved over time and food safety trends were becoming more apparent, we challenged ourselves on how we can better inform the key decision-makers and identify their true areas of risk.


At the time we had a wealth of raw data at our fingertips, but still felt like we were missing a vital piece to the puzzle to drive change.  We needed an effective way to visualize metrics to convey our message in a timelier, and more impactful way.  Relaying findings once a quarter was not moving the needle enough for public food safety. The bottom line, we needed a better data strategy if we wanted to produce impactful results to improve food safety.


Data is an essential variable in effective decision-making. When managed correctly, data can be an extremely powerful tool to help influence actions.


Initially we focused on two areas. We wanted to provide our customers with a more robust set of visualized data and to engage our customers more frequently with this data. With this in mind, we pulled together subject matter experts from within the company:  experts on delivering customer insights, master data experts, and a systems engineer. What came out of this collaboration has transformed how we manage and deliver food safety data and insights to customers.


One key change to our program was the integration of a well-known Business Intelligence (BI) tool where we built a set of dashboards on which users could interact with our visualizations and metrics. This enabled easier access to their data and the models we designed within the tool allowed for drill-down capabilities and layering of data. This assisted users with root cause analysis on multiple levels of their business hierarchies on a daily basis now rather than once a quarter.


When we launched the new dashboards to our first customer, they were thrilled with the new way we were presenting data. After some time passed to allow the customer to get oriented with the new tool we probed for more feedback. While feedback was positive, we came to understand that our customer’s bandwidth was limited and they didn’t always have enough time during the workday to click through all of the results we were displaying. We needed to strategize a better way to drive key insights to our customers and reduce the number of clicks and time necessary to get the answers.


By putting ourselves in the customer’s shoes we began to engage the data asking ourselves "So what does this actually mean and why does this matter?"  From this, we knew we had to improve the communication of the data to the customer. We refined the amount of data we were displaying and focused on the key risk areas that we know through research. Additionally, as food safety professionals, we understood what our customers need to focus on in order to drive public safety.


Putting this into action, we built a new “risk assessment” tool within our BI environment along with an executive summary around known risk factors. This assessment summarizes the observations which are driving a location’s highest risk and allows the end user to know exactly where their highest risk is taking place.  Our customers are spending less time working on data, and we are now making the data work for them.  As a direct result, this has allowed customers to spend more time developing a plan of action based on science. Moreover, the insights obtained from our food safety dashboards can help improve compliance to food safety standards that save lives.


Big Data can be overwhelming. It’s easy to get lost. We work to help our customers understand macro-level trends, and together, identify where to dig in and drive key changes with micro-level insights. Utilizing data to assist in shaping your desired food safety culture is very important and key to driving change that enhances compliance with food safety standards.