How Data Savvy is your team?

Dec 07, 2020 • FeaturesDigital Transformation

Nick Frank, Managing Partner and co-founder of Si2 Partners, tackles some of our perceptions around the understanding of how we can interpret data within our teams and puts forward some important questions field service managers must consider as we enter an age of digitalisation... 

We assume that young people know about data because they are digital natives. Many of us believe senior managers understand all the information around them because of their experiences. But are these perceptions true? Maybe one reason that many organisations struggle to truly incorporate digital into their DNA, is that they are not challenging these assumptions as to how data savvy their people really are. To be successful in the modern data age, we believe that many organisations should go back to basics and equip all their people with the fundamental skills that enables them to turn data into insight into action.

In 2015, the World Economic Forum who organise the Davos conference, published an article “Are digital natives really good at using technology?” Their conclusion was that so called digital natives may be adept at communicating via social media, texting and using apps, but   “……they were basically clueless about the logic underlying how the search engine organises and displays results”.

This is just one example of getting confused between technology and the data outcomes of technology.

Another example we are living through is the current COVID pandemic.  How often have you heard our political leaders tripping up over the statistics they are using to guide their actions?  So bad has it got that many journalists have begun to specialise in explaining the statistics to citizens who are frankly confused.

It’s not just leaders and millennials that have these issue. Over the past 18 months Si2 has been running workshops for over 150 mid-level business professionals on how to turn a ‘business problem in a data solution’.  It does not matter on the sector whether that be banking, financial or industrial, perhaps 70% of participants had a very basic level of data problem solving. By this we observed that they did not have a structured approach to analytics and were very limited in their understanding of data visualisation, basic statistics and storytelling. The result was a tendency to:

  1. Jump to conclusions based on gut feel and not data
  2. A very passive approach to the use data and a lack of critical thinking

The important thing to understand is that these are well educated professionals, but very few appear to have been taught skills around working with data or understand how to integrate knowledge management into their work environment.

The remaining 30% of participants had a good grasp of data, but again no formal education in how to use data. They had picked up techniques and understanding as they grew into their jobs, or professionally they have a numerical background such as engineering, sciences or software. And within this group, maybe only 1-2% had developed the skills and vocabulary to talk to a Data Scientist about how to develop sophisticated analytical solutions such as machine learning.

The point is that if leaders really believe that ‘data is the new oil’, then they need people who appreciate and understand how to use data to drive insights and then action. 

So what should organisations do?

Perhaps they should take a leaf out of the technology companies playbook and make data competency a fundamental capability that each employee must exhibit. For example, in many the job descriptions even for non-technical roles you will often find reference to experiences with data tools (beyond excel) and data driven problem solving.

These successful companies work hard to ensure that their employees are supported in four key areas:

  1. Mindset: Many businesses have leaders who are ‘talking the talk’ on data, but how many actually know how to use data themselves. The data driven mindset is one which goes from the very top of an organisation to the very bottom and embedded in the organisations culture.

  2. Process & Statistics: Most people do not know how to move from identifying a business problem to solving that problem with the data they have. They need guidance and training in how to define the problem, the data they need and how to view it to gain insight. A basic understanding of how numbers work also helps.

  3. Storytelling: is crucial in turning ideas from the creative data thinking process and turning it into real actions that make impact. Often the most data proficient professionals reduce the power of their analysis through failing to clearly communicate impact and required action.

  4. Tools: Everyone uses Excel, however often lack of knowledge of other types of tools that can create great visualisations, save enormous amounts of time during the data cleaning process or are the basic building blocks of analytics.

The good news is that most of us have picked up some of these skills informally, as we progress through our working and professional lives. With a little reflection, some basic frameworks and practice, it is possible to dramatically improve our use of data in creatively solving business problems.

At Si2Partners we have a series of On-Line and face to face workshops that can help your people understand data, drive insight and make an impact. If you would like to learn more on this or the or the Service Leaders Network, then contact Nick on the links below. 

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