The power of data in organisations with Sam Crawshay Jones

Sam Crawshay Jones

“Just having data in your systems is not enough -its about how you intentionally make use of it.”

Sam & I have a great conversation about understanding data and navigating complexity in today’s organisations. We look at the non-negotiables for leaders in a data driven world as well as the different skills that this requires. We also delve into what that means for organisational culture as we strive to build a more inclusive and collaborative workplace.

Sam shares his thoughts and experience from working with organisations big and small on data and equipping organisations for more data driven ways of working.

The main insights you’ll get from this episode are :

  • The role of data in organisations today is to provide visibility to facilitate informed/evidence-based decisions, i.e. data-driven decisions, by delivering the right data to the right person in the right context at the right time. 
  • This encompasses the entire organisation – HR, product development, operations, strategy – and provides new insights to bring about change at a strategic/operational level, which is now financially possible thanks to cheaper data storage and technology deskilling.
  • Decision-making of old based on gut feelings, spreadsheets and personal experience was manual, inefficient and subject to human error. Now it can be delegated in trust-based organisations to allow those closest to the products, for example, to make decisions. 
  • Complexity is the change required in an organisation to relinquish control over the decision-making process. The three non-negotiables for this are:
  • Data savvy leaders with a true understanding of what a data-driven decision is and is not. Many decisions tend to be ‘pseudo’ data-driven, i.e. made before evidence is found to back them up.
  • A strong data foundation in the form of visualisation, algorithms, AI, machine learning, which in turn require good downstream data quality, collection, governance and engineering – good data is always better than good algorithms.
  • A strong data culture beyond the data (science) team with curiosity at its core: investigating events, collecting information, integrating it, building a virtuous cycle, empowering employees to take action based on what they see.
  • The biggest challenge for leaders is around the core technical skills of data and digital. The single profile of data scientist/engineer has been replaced with many different ones as a result of progression and specialisation.
  • Deploying tech skills is a moving target as they develop and change all the time. Traditional classroom training is too slow, too late, too expensive and not scalable whereas online training is responsive, scalable and agile, but has lower retention and pass rates. 
  • A data-driven environment is by nature very inclusive but using data to become more inclusive can be problematic as data is biased by nature and algorithms are not robust enough to make ‘new’ decisions (because they are based on a pre-existing dataset). 
  • Data is a shadow of events that have happened, or a culture that existed, but should not be used for targets; metrics are the output of a culture and data points should be used for insight/audit purposes only, not input.
  • Leaders must get to grips with AI and algorithms, move past the hype cycle and understand the true value of data by getting involved in their organisation’s data projects and learning from current examples.

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Suzie Lewis

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