Written by Dr Duncan Shaw, Adjunct Professor at Alliance Manchester Business School & Nottingham University Business School and a member of the Corndel Data board. His research and consultancy interests include AI and Big Data strategy, Digital Services and Business Ecosystems.
The value of data skills are clear to data professionals, but convincing others within an organisation can be difficult. People see data as complicated, confusing and not relevant to their role – but we know that’s not the case. Data skills simply help employees to work smarter, solve business problems, and give people their time back. Here are a few common misconceptions about data skills – and the truth behind them.
1. Data skills are not about doing new work or having an extra job
Data skills could help to get a promotion or a new job, but they’re mainly about making the everyday work that people do easier. They make the job simpler and quicker by helping us to work smarter.
Think about what makes a job difficult or time-consuming. What creates waste or just causes mistakes? Every job has things which make it bit of a grind or just add to the stress. Things that just get in the way, add friction or generate problems.
Data skills are about the job that we already do – they help us to figure out how to change things to make it a better job, easier and smoother. Data skills won’t solve every problem, but they will certainly help to remove a few bumps in the road and make better use of our time and talents.
When you start a job or see a new problem you always make a few changes to improve things. Like removing the ‘low hanging fruit’ or adding the obvious solutions. Data skills just help you with the next level of improvements. When things very less obvious but you can see things still can be improved. What parts of your job do you want to fix?
Best of all, if you use data to generate options and choose between them, then you will have all the ammunition you need to persuade management to support your ideas. The business case will already have been made.
2. Data skills are not about the data – they are about the regular tasks in your job
Fixing customer problems, reducing mistakes, decreasing waste, or making difficult choices – all these tasks can be made easier with data skills:
- Retail marketers use data to target ads more precisely and fine tune the words and pictures in them, so they squeeze more out their advertising budgets.
- HR managers use data to help managers in all departments to support and develop their staff, by understanding individuals’ needs for training and motivation.
- Engineers use data to precisely schedule planned maintenance, so they reduce time consuming emergency repairs.
- Recruiters use data to pick the right people to interview and to get a better fit between the person and the job, so staff will perform better and stay in the role longer.
- Sales and customer service staff use data to help them understand their customers, so they can give them more attractive propositions and better understand their issues.
Data and data skills are just tools to do what you do in a better way.
3. Data skills don’t start with data, data skills start with a business problem
It’s easy to get distracted by the data, the digital toys and the technology. But a well-designed data skills programme will start with the business issue that needs data skills to fix it, not the other way around.
I’ve seen some data skills training courses that are just slides with no structure, no support and no teaching know-how.
The way to learn data skills is not by throwing technology at learner, it must include regular one-on-ones with experienced human trainers. Trainers that understand business as well as data. Corndel offer 1-2-1 coaching with Professional Development Experts who have worked in the data field previously, to help tease out the issues, together with the learner.
4. Data skills aren’t about being a data scientist, they help you with the job you do right now
Most employees don’t need to get really technical; and a little data science is a valuable thing. But few people want or need to be full-on data scientists. Most staff have a substantial job to do, working closely with customers, colleagues, suppliers, and production systems in the actual business itself. Data skills training adds to what people do now rather than making them into something entirely new.
In addition to helping with the day job, a data skills upgrade also helps people to connect and network across their organisation. New skills help with promotion, but that’s partly because they enable staff to become a bridge to the real data scientists – the specialists who focus on developing data technologies like AI, rather than immersing themselves in day-to-day business operations.
Data is a team sport, and it’s led by the needs of the business.
5. The workplace is evolving, everyone’s doing it
All firms are becoming data-driven and all jobs are starting to use more and more data. It’s not just that firms want to be more evidence-driven, more systematic and more able to use these new technologies that we hear about every day.
Another key driver is that competitors are transforming how they use data technologies:
- to understand customers’ needs better than they do themselves
- to satisfy those needs in the most fitting and efficient way possible
- to keep on top of business disruptions so they can carry on doing all this
So, don’t get left behind. All jobs are becoming data jobs – why not be part of the data revolution in your industry?
Would you like to find out more about how to upskill your employees in data skills fully funded by the Apprenticeship Levy?
Corndel delivers brilliant training in Leadership and Technology to the UK’s largest companies. Our training is tailored to each company’s bespoke objectives and delivers measurable benefits. We offer training in Leadership and Management, Project Management, Data Analytics, Data Essentials, Software Engineering, DevOps Engineering and Fundraising.