A Blog Series: The Digital Transformation of Food Safety

Part Three: Learning from Other Industries – Banking

Thanks again for visiting and your interest in how “Digital Transformation” is changing food safety operations and its impact on food suppliers in general. In Part 1 of this series, we explored the definition of the term “Digital Transformation” and how it can be understood in relation to the advances being made within the food safety function and how this, at a high level, can impact food supplier operations.  In Part 2, we explored the Newspaper Publishing industry’s massive digital transformation and the lessons we can take away regarding how to think about a digital transformation’s impact on how food safety information, processes and operations.

In this 3rd installment, we will take a brief look at the banking industry — which could be characterized as one of the most important and far reaching digital transformations ever to occur.

Let’s start with a bit of history… or what by now should be “history” for almost all of us. I am talking about the checkbook. To be specific, a physical checkbook, typically 3” x 6” in size, and normally accompanied by a section in the back where one would maintain a hand-written ledger of checks written and resulting balances.  Perhaps there are some of you who don’t remember the fun we all had keeping a paper checkbook and ledger… or manually balancing said checkbook against a paper bank statement. Or using a hand-written check at the store to buy groceries. What a transformation this has been!

If you have been following this blog series, you already know about data siloes and their role in being a driver for digital transformations (if this is a new term, refer back to Part 1 of this series). Those paper statements and checkbooks? They are the content of the data siloes in this digital transformation story. Each check, ledger, bank statement was produced, sent and stored… where? In a file cabinet (the data silo)! File cabinets… hmmm – are there any food safety documents that have important data, that you print and then file in a file cabinet? A three-ring binder (data silo)? Stick on a shelf (data silo)… and then wait for the auditor to come so you can scramble and try to retrieve all the information needed from the data siloes?

This blog medium denies me the immediate feedback of seeing your heads nod and eyes roll, but I know it’s happening!

And we all know why this was not such a great system. Errors… ours and the bank’s. Errors were all too frequent. And let’s not leave out the fact that this was a tedious exercise, and for some almost impossible due to poor training and skills development. NO ONE liked to balance their checkbook – (maybe you know some folks who did – they’re a bit odd). But the folks at the banks will tell you – the resistance to change and adoption of digital approaches was really tough! Mainly, we did not trust that our money and the information about our money would be safe! It’s one thing to deliver the paper on-line ( )… but my money?!

And yet, here we are today. In the end, the benefits outweighed the risks. We have somehow surmounted the feelings of risk that our money, managed in digital form, would somehow be outside of our grasp, further removed from a tangible experience. We have replaced it with a massively altered reality where our money is now rarely physically touched at all. The information about our finances has become synonymous with the actuality of our wealth, debt, and financial standing.

Are there any examples you can think of where food safety data risk could be outweighed by the benefits of collecting and sharing it digitally? Could we experience the same digital transformation journey where one day, the data about food safety risks, issues, and known problems could be shared and become a new form of digital currency within our food safety environments?

Banking was transformed slowly… but eventually the old analog approach became digital. We see it in many aspects of our lives, whether we are consumers and interacting with retail, or businesses interacting with each other or with finance sources. Imagine what the Covid-19 pandemic would have looked like if we were NOT able to make on-line purchases and remotely control our finances?

But aside from the current anomaly of this pandemic, there are so many benefits that we have realized – they have become ubiquitous and we take them for granted. We can execute virtually any transaction, analyze our finances, and now we Venmo and PayPal… (both verbs and nouns!) The banking industry has become leaner. They are now a data and information industry that is driven by the access and speed by which financial information can be absorbed, understood and used. There was resistance… for sure. There have been breaches, and hackers have caused some serious events to occur, but this has not deterred the progress to a fully digitized financial world. In fact, it created a whole new digital industry around information security.

So…. Where are we at as a profession and an industry in thinking about all this? Are we ready to digitize food safety data? Democratize it? Put it on a blockchain? Do the lessons and successes of the banking industry apply to these challenges?

I look forward to your thoughts and ideas… please comment. Refute my concepts. Agree with them. But let’s continue this dialog. Part 4 of this series will focus on the digital transformation of the Healthcare Provider industry – a sector that exhibits very close parallels to food safety. I’ll post that within the next week or two… so stay tuned.

About David Hatch (me):

I’ve been involved in some form of a digital transformation for a very long time. I was fortunate to start my career right around the same time that the Internet was emerging from the world of the government and military to commercial use. My first project was transforming the Boston Red Sox baseball and Bruins hockey video content from an analog to a digital medium… meaning that for the first time, the owner of the content could digitally access, search, and find the exact video they needed to fulfill certain new business opportunities. That experience, which resulted in building a video content licensing business, led me to various experiences across a multitude of industries, including banking, publishing, healthcare and food & beverage. I’ve spent my entire career working on one challenge: How can a business use technology and their digital assets, data and analytics to make better, more informed decisions that improve the business, meet customer needs and achieve desired outcomes and objectives.

About Corvium (my company):

Corvium is driving the digital transformation of food safety programs by automating and delivering a unified data platform for environmental monitoring, product testing, sanitation workflows, as well as tracking and alerting for conformance and compliance. We’re addressing the challenges that food suppliers are facing when it comes to making that leap from paper or manual spreadsheet processes to a fully digitized data-driven function.

 

 

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