The blind spot: why your employees might fail to see the value of data, and how to convince them to invest in their skills 

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:

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 ManagementProject ManagementData AnalyticsData EssentialsSoftware EngineeringDevOps Engineering and Fundraising.

5 Anticipated data challenges for businesses in 2022

Authored by Kim Nilsson, CEO at PeripherAi and member of Corndel’s Data Board

For the past decade, I started each year hopeful that this is the year when data science becomes mainstream, and data analytics becomes something that infuses every organisation. I have often been disappointed at how slow adoption of data science in businesses has been, yet I have come to realise that innovation adoption does not happen in sudden leaps, it sneaks up on you and suddenly you realise: ok, it happened.

Especially during the last couple of years, the pandemic, remote working, and unpredictable supply and demand chains have certainly accelerated the trend towards data infusion, and 2022 will surely increase the urgency further. What could matter in the year ahead for business leaders?

Data storage methods

A shifting trend is around data storage. Whereas for the last decade, the shift was from on premise to (single) cloud, today the options are more open and diverse. All the big vendors are racing to be winners in the multi-cloud race, i.e. allowing users to optimise their data storage across multiple cloud providers, based on their needs. Evermore data is also now generated and stored on the ‘edge’, i.e. on the device itself with data processing happening locally.

Due to concerns around cost, availability, and security, some companies consider repatriating their data back to on-premise servers, and of course, there are hybrid versions including all of the above. The choice of data storage will be a decision in need of careful consideration for data managers this year.

Making data accessible

As data was being uploaded into data lakes and cloud centres, little consideration was typically spent on how to organise the data, or how to optimise the storage in order to facilitate data science operations. That ‘technical debt’ is now due to be repaid, and it can be a tricky burden for organisations. One option is to integrate a “self-service data platform” that can act as an interface between the data user and the data lake. There are also semi-organised tools, or “data lake houses”, that can take some of the legwork out of organising at least the structured data in your data lake. Ultimately, finding a way to make your data accessible for analysis without engineering overheads is a challenge for 2022.

Low-code/no-code adoption

One trend, on the other hand, that will facilitate production of data insights in 2022 is the further development and increasing use of low code/no-code applications. Here, both the large cloud providers as well as a range of start-ups and SME’s are working on creating software that allows even a relatively non-technical team member to pick up analytics work via, for example, drag-and-drop GUI’s and semantic interfaces.

This is a trend I personally warmly welcome. Data is part of the lifeblood of a company. Similar to how most employees in a company will have a degree of understanding and appreciation of financials, and profit and loss, they should have the same for other data. This democratisation of data analytics can only lead to more value derived, more initiatives around use of data, and engaged employees. The latter is important, also considering my next point.

The Great Resignation

After a couple of tough years where staff stayed put in their roles, either because of a fear of lack of opportunities or because they felt loyal to their employers during tough times, it is now clear that many are starting to look around for something new. For some, that may be finally daring to change careers altogether, for others it may be searching for something that gives them more meaning.

Whatever the reason, retaining staff as well as hiring new staff is increasingly difficult. According to the Royal Society, in the years 2016-2021, demand for data scientists and data engineers tripled over, rising 231%, to be compared to a mere 36% growth in all job postings in the UK. With less access to European talent, companies will need to give more attention to retaining and motivating existing personnel. One excellent way to ensure a flow of analytics talent is to give your employees a chance to upskill and see a career path towards more rewarding jobs within the organisation.

Internet safety

2021 was another year of growth in cyber and ransomware attacks. In a high profile case JBS, the world’s largest meat processor, paid a $11M ransom to release their systems and in my home country Sweden, one of the largest supermarket chains Coop had to close 500 stores for almost a week because of an attack on their checkout systems. 2021 was also a record year for data leaks, with for example the user details of 700 million LinkedIn users discovered online. What does this mean for organisations? Fraud and ransomware attacks are alas not confined to large enterprise, but also smaller businesses get fleeced. In this year, beefing up your cybersecurity procedures and practices should be high on the agenda. (Pardon the pun, JBS).

Sustainability

Now I know the list was supposed to consist of five key trends, but we need to talk about sustainability. Unfortunately, I do not think it will be on the top of managers’ minds this year, but it should be. Data storage, retrieval, and crunching is undoubtedly an energy-consuming business. By now, most countries have pledged to become climate neutral within a couple of decades, and businesses need to carry out their part of that responsibility. In 2022, I wish that more companies examine their energy consumption and that more vendors and software providers find ways to be more green. That would be real progress!

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 ManagementProject ManagementData AnalyticsData EssentialsSoftware EngineeringDevOps Engineering and Fundraising.