Recent times have seen dramatic changes in how essential companies must operate. The importance of technology in Solid Waste is a key example. Waste collectors have reduced headcount, but no fewer collection routes. City budgets demand efficiency and responsibility more than ever. And Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) reporting has become a priority for waste companies, causing many to reassess their data capabilities.

It’s obvious the importance of data collection and analysis cannot be understated. With reduced team sizes, restructured routing, fleet changes, cities operating remotely, and city budgets suffering massively, responsible operations necessitate a new reporting landscape with an expanded list of KPIs. For nearly all waste companies, the rising importance of ESG already highlights these changes. For companies that don’t emphasize data yet, success will depend on catching up.

We’re venturing further and further into what’s undoubtedly a permanent shift in the industry toward advanced reporting and data competency. That requires a whole new grip on data, which starts with access to metrics. At the same time, the back office is remote, many operational support functions now require more planning (think fleet maintenance), and tightened city budgets demand greater efficiencies. All these forces pull budgets and processes in opposing directions.

Access is the theme that undergirds each direction. And the access points at each of your data collection systems, like your ERP, are the factors that will make or break your ability to adapt. How long is your financial close? How robust are your routing metrics? How well can you anticipate customer service issues? Answers to these questions hinge on accessing your data, finding the stories that drive success. In short, being a data company.

Becoming data-centric begins by setting your KPIs and determining what decisions must be supported by data. It continues by looking at the tools you currently use and how your company uses them — following the manual workarounds like signposts pointing out where the technology falls off and the people have to step up. That analysis will in turn tell you where to focus technology efforts to make the biggest impact, as well as how best to position yourself for technology investments when the time is right and/or the budget allows.

Improving your data culture by auditing and elevating these “access points” lays the foundation for automation, improves processes and workflows, and enhances the flexibility of your reporting, so you can begin making decisions from the new KPIs our evolving economy requires.

There’s no question you’re being asked to do more with less, to remain competitive while at the same time reducing your footprint. Data access is the way to accomplish this in an environment of reduced resources. Every decision rests on it. Every direction is navigated by it. And you can find out where you need it most by watching where your teams exert the most effort, particularly where it concerns reporting.

Follow the long hours, the late Fridays, and the early Saturdays. Those are the breadcrumbs to find potential process and technology improvements, to drive major transformation without major expense, catching you up with demand and surging you ahead of competition.