Guest Column: How to Unlock Your Data Vault
How to Unlock Your Data Vault
By Ruben Ugarte
Without even knowing anything about your company, I can guess a few things. First, your company has a significant amount of data. Second, you have more reports and dashboards than NASA. Third, you’re interested in extracting more useful insights from your data.
You’re not alone. Executives globally are trying to figure out how to make the most out of their data. There’s value hidden in there, but it’s not quite clear how to get to it. In this article, I want to share 3 strategies that you can implement today to shine a light into your data black box.
Strategy #1: Democratize Access to Data and Make it Easy
Everyone in your company should have access to data. The days of having a single gatekeeper, i.e., a data analyst, are over. You will still need to hire data analysts and scientists, but most people in your company should have the ability to answer basic questions about their work.
For example, if I’m running a marketing team, I want to measure the impact of my marketing campaigns on my own. I can then determine what is working and what I need to stop doing. If I have to wait for someone to generate these insights, everything might come to a screeching halt.
I have worked with countless companies where employees ask me questions that they could answer themselves. In some cases, they have been waiting weeks or even months to get the answer. Imagine what would happen if people within your company were answering their own questions rapidly and then using that information to make a decision.
Democratize access to data using the following tactics:
- Convert data into as many formats as possible, including reports, dashboards, raw exports, email summaries, etc.
- Set up technology that is easy to use and can be learned relatively quickly
- Empower data experts to set up systems for generating rapid answers in a self-service fashion
- Provide training on data, KPIs, and technology regularly
Strategy #2: Commit to Training and educating
We can’t talk about data access without training. I have come across a peculiar phenomenon within companies. There’s a large portion of people that aren’t comfortable with data. We are talking about basic statistics here.
For some people, data reminds them of math class back in school, and the memory isn’t enjoyable. However, data doesn’t have to feel like calculus 101. Most of the data work that your team will do doesn’t require a P.Hd in math, but it does require understanding basic concepts.
Aim to teach these concepts and work through any concerns by providing training regularly. In my client work, I run through 4 types of training modes: group, individual, ad-hoc, and documentation.
The first mode, group, is what almost every company runs. You put 20 – 30 people in a room for a couple of days and hope that this is enough. Group training is good for the basics, but there’s only so much that you can learn in one sitting and through this format.
Start with group sessions, but then make sure to schedule individual sessions. You can tailor the training to the exact questions or problems this person is experiencing. Individual sessions can be 30 – 60 minutes in length, and they can take place over weeks.
The third training mode is ad-hoc. In this mode, you want to set up a channel for people to post questions and get answers back. Most of my clients have done using software tools like Slack or Microsoft Teams, but any chat software tool will work.
The fourth and final training model is documentation. Once you know what your best practices are, you need to document them. You want to capture your most important KPIs, their formulas,, and any relevant reports/dashboards for data.
Strategy #3: Track Fewer KPIs, Do More
The final strategy is slightly more controversial. I think companies should track fewer KPIs. It’s easier than ever to capture data and then convert it into some kind of chart or widget. The problem is that most of these numbers aren’t actually helpful.
Imagine if you were driving a car and the car was giving you updates on every single function that was taking place. The gasoline is being converted into energy, the radio is converting electricity into music, your steering wheel is turning the front wheels, and so on. It would make you crazy, and it would be harder to know when something was critically wrong such as running low on fuel.
The same idea applies to your company. You want to track only the right KPIs to avoid being drowned out in the noise of your numbers. If a number drops or spikes, what would you do? If your answer is nothing, then you’re likely looking at a vanity metric.
They say data is the new oil. I’m not sure if this is the case, but there is untapped potential within your data. You need the proper tools and equipment to extract your data vault’s insights and convert them into a usable format. There’s no better time to upgrade your company than today.
Ruben Ugarte is an expert in data, decision making, and the author of the Data Mirage. You can learn more about his work and ideas at https://rubenugarte.com
© Ruben Ugarte 2021