Big Data needs business translators

In an age where the technology playing field and access to data is becoming flatter, the question around where do organisations find value from data is becoming a C-suite issue.

Based on a survey of 2,719 respondents across the globe and interviews with 28 executives, MIT Sloan Review and SAS found that organisations achieving the greatest benefits from analytics are also much more likely to have a clear idea on how they recruit, develop and deploy key talent within their organisation.

This challenge to Human Resources and business leaders alike will be of critical importance to get right over the next decade. According to McKinsey Global Institute , as millions of university graduates are leaving STEM programs and moving into the exciting new career of data science, organisations globally will not only have to win the war for this talent, but also need to integrate it into their teams quickly and effectively.

Key to success in this challenge, will be the need for circa ~4 million business translators to play the role of connecting data science talent to business questions. At Connectworxs, following our experience of working in this field, we know that getting this final mile right will mean the difference for Chief Data Officers and their teams. We have found some key tenants of organisations that have been successful in doing this that we would like to share here.

1. Start with business value
Often, managers and leaders due to daily fire fighting do not have the head space or time to take on advanced algorithms – as interesting as they may be! Structure the conversation around what your trying to achieve - where are we going, and what you’re trying to understand through the lens of the business decision maker. Too often, teams get caught up by starting with the data. Start with the business value you wish to create and construct data collection and requests from there. This is a thinking skill challenge, not a technical one.

2. Establish a comman language for data
Speed is the winning advantage here. Starting with senior leaders, organisations need to establish a consistent and simple way of talking about data across the business. This consistent and simple nomenclature will allow data scientists and translators alike, to jump from data project to business conversations and get up to speed quickly with the business need. A consistent language around what is a priority, enduring, or essential data requirement will enable the team to get on the same page. Quickly.

3. Create data communities
In time, through embedded ways of working and rituals, your translators will start to join the insights around your organisation to what data is being used to boost business performance. As the bearers of data, your translators will be able to build communities of best practice that will in time start to crack data silos – the early stages of building a data ecosystem. This requires strong reinforcement from senior leadership at the start, and a commitment to organisation wide diffusion of insights. This is the gold dust!

4. Share, share, share
We get asked frequently how you balance embedding analytic talent deep into the front line of organisations whilst aligning to the centre. The answer is not an either/or but a dynamic tension that needs to be well managed. The critical shift here is from a centre of excellence approach to data exploitation. Whether your data teams are working on specific projects or clustered by business function, translators play a critical role in sharing success accross the business. Move beyond a static data warehouse or lake mindset (as critically important as these assets may be) and towards a Data Cafe or Fishbowl way of thinking, where data success in one part of the organisation can be shared and used to another effect somewhere else. Translators play a critical role here, or as a client recently said to me, "it's data scientists who need to be serving the coffee in the data cafe!"

5. Unicorns don't exist
Data Scientists who have a domain and analytics expertise rarley exist. Instead, build the capabilities on both sides to connect with each other through everyday interactions.

Business translators will benefit teams hugely as we move into a data driven era, providing that they are deployed carefully and the business teams are ready to receive them with the right social operating mechanisms. Organisations that get this final mile right, will start to use data to fuel growth accross all areas of the business against the most important issues.

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