What to do with data

In Big Data, Business Analysis, Data Governance, Data Management by IRM UKLeave a Comment

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By MH van Staden MIT Big Data Science in progress, Data Strategy, Solutions & Analytics Lead, Everyday Banking

Everybody is doing it.

Having individuals with data specific roles, or even entire teams focusing on data functions, has become commonplace in many organisations.  It is now common practice to have some level of data collection, transformation, storage, analysis, reporting and maybe even modelling.

Whilst business operations are flowing, new data is constantly being generated, feeding the pipeline on an ongoing basis.  On the demand side, there is a thirst for novel information, like the latest sales numbers or business performance.  With the added hype that has been happening around data, there are thus many factors combining to keep the wheel turning.

All of this spinning can potentially power an organization forward, or become little more than a means unto itself.

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If a machine can do it, enable them

Automation is not achieved at the click of a button.  You will need people in your teams to spend time building and testing robust processes, that are able to deal with general day to day nuances, as well as regular curveballs.

Even then, they will not be able to cater for all of the possible things that can, and at some point does, go wrong.  This is where detailed, and laborious, documentation of the processes are really key.

Most of the time it is nobody’s job to automate and document.  It is left up to those that have been scarred, by having to pick up from scratch, to go out of their way to document, and those stretched beyond any other means, to automate off the side of their desks, in desperation.

Get dedicated resources, make it part of business as usual, or be prepared to learn the hard way.  Without automation and documentation, you’re always treading water.

Stagnation is the mother of churn

Not everybody wants to be the CEO.  Some people do not want to manage others.  Many do like comfort, but nobody wants to feel stuck.

Within an organisation, team or role, career paths or development roadmaps can be extremely powerful.  It allows for strong succession planning and active employee engagement, whilst at the same time empowering the individual in progressing their own journey.

After making sure you’ve got business continuity covered, I see developing the people in your teams as the most important function of leadership.  This should not be limited to managing the corporate ladder.  Much can be achieved through pro-actively promoting rotation across divisions, functions, roles, or even just focus areas.

Make sure your people keep moving meaningfully, and the results will follow.

No, you cannot do everything

The more insight we gain, the more we discover how much we do not yet know.  I’ve personally found that there is a consistent correlation between the amount of numbers shared, and the number of questions that follow.

Analysis is addictive.  It is always possible to slice a report in another way, add a view and another.  Opportunities abound for building new processes and models, tweaking existing ones, and constantly adapting to latest findings.

You cannot do it all.  If everything is a priority, then nothing is important.  Trying to deliver on all asks, leads to none of them being serviced properly.

Create a request system, pull together a to-do list and then prioritize.  As a collective of stakeholders, the data book of work needs to be rationalized and agreed.  Data people cannot do it alone.

Being busy is bad

Ask somebody how they are doing, and most of the time their answer ends off with something along the lines of ‘…just being busy’.  Even when not, saying you’re busy ensures that it does not sound like you’re slacking.

In my experience, this social stigma has all kinds of negative consequences.  We tend to say yes to more work, when we actually do not have the capacity.  Bottlenecks are created with hogging of tasks and knowledge that should be delegated and shared.  The busier you are with doing, the less time you have to think, be creative, explore new ideas and innovate.

If you want your data engine room to be adding value:

  1. Automate, document & automate,
  2. Keep growing each individual &
  3. Focus on the most important deliverables

Yes, you need reports and processes to keep the business running.  A disconnected data structure that spends all of its time on long term strategic initiatives, and doesn’t contribute in the meantime, won’t last.

Only keeping your head down day to day, will however also not deliver on the growth potential that data can offer.

Find the right balance for you.

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