Business Insights Breakfast: Using Data Visualisation to Empower Your Workforce

Tableau's 'Data Visualisation' Series went to Melbourne as we discussed the benefits of enabling a visual analytics culture.

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Data has become the lifeblood of many major organisations, with numerous teams now being set up in-house to devote time and resources to this valuable side of a business.

Visualising the data you possess empowers your workforce, providing clarity and deeper insights into your customers while helping to build whole-of-enterprise knowledge.

Tableau and OmniChannel Media brought together over 30 of Melbourne’s leading executives in the data, business insights and operations spaces to discuss the impact that fast, actionable insights have on day-to-day operations.

Technology alone is not the answer

Mac Bryla, Senior Consultant at Tableau, began the discussion by emphasising that technology alone is only half of the equation when it comes to uncovering insights.

“When we want to find insights into our data, we usually turn to technology, but technology is not going to be the only thing you need to answer those analytical questions.”

He stated that companies must also utilise the power of people, realising the potential that their employees have to see the gaps in the data that technology may miss.

“People bring in curiosity and creativity and critical thinking. Only when you marry technology and people together will you make getting value out of data a reality.”

Internally, the focus should not just be on empowering those working on the data, but also in helping them to achieve their goals, as Edwin Camilleri, Data Scientist at AIA, explained.

“Different parts of the business have different use cases and needs. It’s about finding the right solution that can directly support that and then diving into the insights.”

Culture is critical to success

In conjunction with utilising the right people, creating a data-driven ‘culture of enablement’ was also emphasised as a way of empowering the workforce and delivering key insights.

Bryla made the point that the first step is in creating an environment of openness and collaboration, as opposed to one of siloes and mistrust around sharing data.

“All innovative companies have an environment of trust, where they give access to information and data to as many people as they can without breaking privacy laws.”

This ‘environment of trust’ means that people are not afraid to ask questions or make mistakes – if you share your data with different departments, and they make a mistake or come up with the wrong results, this can then be used as a learning opportunity.

Tracey Evans, the Head of Enterprise Applications at SEEK admitted that their data culture isn’t entirely where it needs to be right now, but they’re swiftly moving towards those goals.

“The way we use it from the point of view of a customer experience is wonderful, but from the point of view of our operational aspects we’ve still got a bit of a way to go to enhance that and use that better.”

She mentioned siloes as the main barrier to unlocking the value that the data holds, but said the solution lies in helping the data team to better manage and recognise their significance.

“It’s about working with those teams to help them to understand that data is something that we can actually use and interpret across the whole organisation to make better decisions.”

Visualisation is the key that opens all doors

Data visualisation was highlighted across the board as the number one way to get your company engaged with your data strategy. Presenting data to your team in a way that they can understand and appreciate means they will be that much more engaged with it.

Bryla noted that often, data visualisation is merely an afterthought for the IT teams that collect and collate the data.

“IT departments spend a lot of time and effort in collecting the data, putting it in databases and making it available, but sometimes it feels like the presentation of it is an afterthought.”

He emphasised the role that visualisation plays not just in helping everyone understand why the data is important, but also in making it harder to dismiss the data as ‘not their job’.

“More and more companies are realising that communication of information is key. That’s what everybody sees and that’s how they’re going to judge what’s useful or not – if they don’t understand it, they will simply think ‘that’s not my domain, I’m not a data person’.”

Camilleri spoke on the ways that data visualisation helps his role as a data scientist, with modelling used in conjunction with visualisation to uncover hidden insights.

“Some of those hidden patterns are really hard to visualise, so that’s where modelling comes in – building the models to identify those patterns – and then looping it back through to visualising the results.”

Conclusion

Data clearly plays a variety of roles in every organisation, whether assisting in a product development space to better understand the needs of the customer or helping your team internally to better understand what they’re working with and why it’s important.

However, utilising data to its full potential also involves working at speed and being agile, as Evans outlined when speaking on the role that IT teams play in the delivery of data.

“The way we need to make business decisions means that our business users need to have access to data in a faster manner, and our IT teams need to adjust to that.”

Bryla highlighted that while not everybody needs to be a ‘data person’, everybody does need to be ‘data literate’, and visualisation serves a useful purpose in that regard.

“We don’t want to make everybody data people, but we want them to all be data literate. We need to make them data visualisation literate, because that’s the easiest way to present it.”

Camilleri may have summed up the role of data visualisation best, by stating:

“You’ve got to present value – it’s about telling a story with the results and translating it into a visual story that’s quick and easy to grasp.”