With data’s arrival into the workforce in recent years, it has become crucial that organisations understand how to effectively manage the information available and use it to their advantage.
This formed the heart of the discussion put to Brisbane’s leading Heads of Data and BI Architects at a business insights breakfast entitled ‘Using Data Visualisation to Empower Your Workforce.’
Hosted in partnership with Tableau and OmniChannel Media, the breakfast featured a Q&A panel featuring Mac Bryla, Senior Consultant for Tableau Software, and Tannath Scott, Performance Specialist for Brisbane Broncos.
The three fundamental concepts that arose throughout the discussion included fostering the right culture, data as a business function, and effectively understanding and challenging the data you collect.
Data is a Whole-of-Business Challenge
Although managing data used to be associated with the IT functions, it is increasingly becoming a whole-of-business challenge.
Bryan attributed this to being able to answer two types of questions: ‘known unknowns’ and ‘unknown unknowns’. With known unknowns such as poor sales figures, people would often turn to the data for answers, therefore making it an IT function. However, it would be more fruitful for the business to understand the unknown unknowns such as raising the question: why are the sales numbers falling and where should we be investing?
Therefore, data management is becoming a business-centric process as opposed to purely an IT function.
“The people who know the data should be the ones asking the questions,” Bryla stated.
However, the effective management of this data must originate from more senior levels, and Scott was quick to highlight the shift in data management.
Working for the Broncos is a data rich industry that relies heavily on technology, such as using GPS tracking to monitor the performance of their players. In the past, Scott focussed on building data for coaches from the bottom up, but stated “recently it’s been working from the top down to keep it far simpler.”
Starting from the bottom can be very complex, and Mac agreed, arguing that giving people access to data is no longer sufficient; business leaders should be pushing for better data management.
He explained, “In order for a company to absorb the whole concept of data, it has to start at the top.”
Data Needs a Curious Culture
When discussing data, the conversation often turns to the best tools and technologies and ignores the people behind it. Bryla emphasised the importance of creating the correct culture and argued that gaining a good understanding of data comes down to the people themselves.
“I find that too often companies buy into these shiny new technologies…but the company culture seems to lag behind.
“People use the latest tools but still apply the old way of thinking,” he explained.
As a result, organisations are not getting value out of their data due to their outdated handling of it. Instead, fostering an innovative culture of enablement across the company would be more beneficial.
Bryla narrowed it down to three main concepts that were important to creating this culture: an environment of trust that encourages employees to explore; embracing failure and failing fast; and encouraging autonomy to research the data.
“When companies buy these technologies, the usual process is to look at the features or look at the price, which is very important. But I think what’s forgotten sometimes is asking: what tools should we pick that will allow that creativity and curiosity to come through?”
While managing data from a strategic level is crucial, maintaining human curiosity and interaction is key; data is not solely a mechanical or technical process.
In order for data to be used as a strategic asset, a solid understanding of how it works and having the confidence to challenge its insights is vital.
In the context of the Broncos, data is a useful tool in shedding light on player performance and injury predictions through metrics.
Scott suggested it is not the players’ responsibility to understand their own data, and often their ignorance of changing or modifying variables can actually be beneficial. However, the difficulty arises when trying to present these conclusions to the coaches who need to understand and utilise them.
This is where data visualisation comes into play. It allows customers, and coaches, to interact with these metrics and creates ease of access into complex data. According to Bryla, the conversation around data is expanding and, with it, the likelihood of researching, understanding and even challenging the data.
As Scott argued, “Data should either support or challenge your opinion.”
Visual techniques allows for better communication, more accessible data and provides users with a sense of understanding and autonomy.
“There’s a tipping point with how we use data, and just because you have got all this data, the coaching side of it has kind of been swept under a rug. Now it is starting to come out and we are looking at how we can make a meaningful change with that data,” Scott noted.
Looking particularly at placing the power in the hands of the users, the general consensus agreed that businesses should encourage an analytics strategy that is not only easily accessible, but also autonomous. By making the investigation of data a personal endeavour, organisations can create a culture of enablement that is driven by curiosity.
By doing so, data is becoming a whole-of-business challenge and moving away from its original IT roots. However, this shift that must be encouraged from the top-down, and through the effective management of data its positive ramifications can be reached business-wide.
Finally, by using a top-down approach and visualising assets, organisations can make data easier to understand and process.
Scott concluded that after analysing twenty reports on what business were trying to achieve, the most common buzzword was ‘innovate.’
“The problem with innovation is that…everyone is talking about it, few people are doing it, and even fewer are doing it right.”
With data at the centre of innovation, this is the place to start.