Data Analytics, Event

Panel discussion recap - Leading a Data-Led Culture in your Team

25 May 2021

Digital transformation is, at least in part, a cultural change programme. As leaders, we are responsible for the culture of our teams. It makes sense that we need to promote cultural change in our teams, which in turn drives that culture change in the whole organisation.

But what does that really mean for leaders and why do we want to promote a data-driven culture within our teams?

Corndel in collaboration with The University of Nottingham, hosted a webinar to discuss the key benefits and challenges, as well practical implications of leading with data and provided insights into how leaders across different industries can embrace this approach. Jina Melnyk met with our panel of experts and academics in this field – below is a summary of the key discussion points.

  • Pardeep Bassi - Head of Data Science, LV=
  • Greg Hawkins - Senior Technical Advisor, Starling Bank
  • Dr Duncan Shaw - University of Nottingham

What are the benefits of having a data driven team?

Greg Hawkins explains that at the most obvious level, being data-driven helps you avoid the missteps and susceptibility to bias which can lead to quick and inaccurate decisions, and therefore be costly and dangerous to the business. As an example, at Starling Bank the office floor is awash with screens displaying real-time information and transactions taking place right now. This makes the connection visible, timely and helps to increase accountability and moving forward in a sensible direction.

Pardeep elaborates, “As a team, it’s about how we measure our impact and values.” Data is a tool that can help make better, accurate and therefore efficient decisions. It’s about the translation of data and action into business outcome, monitoring that and then seeing tangible impact. Replicating that process across the entire organisation gives you a route to hit company objectives using data.

Dr Duncan Shaw draws on his experience of working with senior leaders and explains that something leaders worry about is their years of experience and intuition being removed in favour of data. “But I say to them, the data driven teams, you can have your gut instinct, you can use your imagination and creativity, but you can also be systematic. You can have your cake and eat it!”

“Data is a team sport, you can make many collective decisions and you do things on a scale that’s not human.” Dr Duncan Shaw

Can you give some examples of data-driven behaviours?

There is also much to be learnt from marketing and customer journey ideas. An organisation can obtain data throughout the customer journey to iron out every barrier that a customer faces, and make that journey as smooth as possible.

Dr Duncan Shaw advises that everything you do, you can improve. Whether it's a service, a product, a measurement system, an iModel, you can keep improving it and adapting along the way using data – everything is a circle of continuous improvement, not a straight line.

At Starling Bank, Greg Hawkins stresses the importance of analytics in lab testing. When a feature is released, it is turned over to a small number of users and then a larger number and it is important to understand when that is ready to go live based on analytics. It is vital to understand how the feature is used, through app testing and the analytics of customer journey.

Data-driven behaviours can also help during incident management at Starling, for example, when a card isn’t working or during batch runs, the teams will start to look at the analytics. They start to ask how many customers actually are affected? What is the impact? What is the impact if we don't fix this till tomorrow? What devices are impacted? What versions of what devices? How many users do we have during the hours of two and four in the AM on Saturday? This can all help with taking immediate action.

When asked about his experience of data-driven behaviours, Pardeep Bassi reflects on how a lot of our data-driven behaviours are influenced by the impact on customers. Previously when a motor insurance claim was submitted, people at the end of the phone would decide the best course of action to ensure call is settled in the right way. Now we have machine learning models defining the route in which the customer takes in terms of who they speak to, and to ensure the efficiency of that customer experience.

What can leaders do to drive that team behaviour?

Pardeep Bassi believes that everything starts with education and understanding. Some people understand that the value machine learning to improve and outcomes business outcomes, but it's about understanding and explaining to people exactly what you're doing, what is machine learning, how can it be used, where it spreads, where its weaknesses are, whilst also removing those fears and concerns. Increasing the understanding helps the adoption.

Another big idea is collaboration – the panel were in agreement that you can’t do things in isolation. The bigger the organisation, the more you really do, you need to collaborate especially with remote working. It is not just about cross-functional teams, but collaborating with external organisations or external stakeholders. We're getting digital ecosystems starting to compete against each other.

Greg refers back to the example of the multiple and accessible screens at Starling Bank and explains that anyone who is present at their desk has the ability to control what's on the screens. They can tailor it to show things that they're working on, what's important to them, they can show the data that they are accountable for and have ownership of the things that they're worried about. That ability to have the data around you that is specific and relevant, really helps engage everyone in making sure that the vision is aligned.

What are the challenges leaders face when trying to change the culture in this way?

Historically, the difficulty with pushing data-driven decisions is always availability of data. Moving forward it is essential that the required data needs to be made pervasive and introduced in a participative way. Furthermore, in order to make pervasive decisions, data has to be timely. Real-time data is essential to making real-time decisions.

Pardeep elaborates that as we look to democratise data for everyone, it is just as essential that people understand how to use it in the right way. You must have a base understanding of statistics to ensure that if you change in a pattern of a particular outcome, is it significant enough? Are you doing your analysis in a robust way, rather than making the data give the results you wanted to see? This level of education and consistency is crucial to how you use the data across the business. Data has weaknesses and we should be mindful that it is a tool to use alongside everything else.

In Dr Duncan Shaw’s experience, “When I do Board talks, the first challenge that comes up is helping the Board understand what is the art of the possible.” Technologies can fundamentally change the capabilities of organisations whilst simultaneously educating the rest of the organisation so that they know things could be different. Whatever metric you are focused on can be measured and understood in a different way because of these technologies. The next stage is helping leaders to understand how that can impact on change management and business transformation.

Jina summarises “You've got to have the confidence, the skill set and the behaviour to change”. We should be continually challenging ourselves and our teams as we're moving forward with digital transformation.”

Thank you to our panelists and all those who attended.

This panel discussion highlighted the importance of data literacy, the benefits of expanding the data analytics community in every organisation and addressed how individual leaders can develop new and existing talent within their teams.

This talk is part of Corndel’s Leading with Data webinar series which is designed for mid-to-senior leaders who have an interest in the rising intersection of leadership and data skills.

About the Corndel/University of Nottingham partnership

Corndel has partnered with the University of Nottingham to offer UK employers the chance to develop sought-after data analytics and data science skills across the workforce.

Nottingham University Business School (NUBS) is placed in the top 150 Business Schools globally for business and management courses (QS World Ranking 2020).  In The Economist 2021 full-time MBA ranking, published in January this year, NUBS is placed 3rd in the UK and 55th globally for its MBA programme. 

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.

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