Data teams were perceived as report builders for a long time, and people believed that data should be one team’s responsibility. But perceptions have changed, and more and more companies are paying attention to their data strategies.
If you want to become a data-driven company, you need to build a culture where data is everybody’s concern, and it’s more than a piece of information in a database. It is a valuable resource allowing you to look through your user’s experience, an essential piece of your business puzzle.
In this episode of the Data-Driven Leaders podcast…
In this episode of Data-Driven Leaders, Rupinder Dhillon, the Head of Enterprise Data Office at Sobeys, joins our host, Christina O’Reilly. They discuss data as a product, the importance of defensive and offensive perspectives in strategy building, and why companies should democratize data, making it available to all the teams.
*Show notes and key insights below…
Listen to Episode 5: How to Create a Successful Data Strategy
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How to Create a Successful Data Strategy: Episode 5
⚡ Data allows us to look through our users’ lenses. Data is the most valuable asset in today’s business world. It has grown from being a piece of information to becoming a resource for understanding users’ habits and needs and helping companies create their business strategies.
”I think it will remain important, especially in the data space, where we’ve gone from report builders to now having to think through the user experience, and how to present it in a way and make it interactive enough that people want to use it. So I think that piece will grow in importance.”
⚡ Data is complex, but it should not be intimidating. Many organizations aim to become data-driven. However, that’s easier said than done, because most companies are not familiar with the processes and terminology around data. That’s why, as Rupinder explains, her job is to bring data closer to the people.
”I can lead a conversation about data governance and start with data stewardship, and the difference between a data steward and data owner. But let’s face it, people don’t care. So the approach that we’re taking, with the help of Gensquared, is to target very specific business processes and problems that are the result of data or have an impact on data so that we’re talking the language of the business. We’re going to be addressing things that impact the day-to-day.”
⚡ Data should be everyone’s concern. There’s a misconception that not all teams within a company should deal with data. But here’s what Rupinder says:
”In this day and age, everybody should care about customer data. Everybody should care about item data. You should be striving towards no longer having the sense that this particular data is only important to one part of the organization. It should be about how you can unlock that data for the entire organization?”
Episode 5 Highlights
💡 A hybrid work model may be the ideal way for companies to manage their teams in the future
‘‘Some of the data science and data teams are saying, ‘Well, you know what, I’m much more productive at home.’ So I think it’s shown that our teams are resilient and can adjust to [different] ways of working.
It depends on the project you’re working on, who the teams are, and what they need. I’m hoping that the style of being able to collaborate, whiteboard together, and all of that doesn’t go away.
And that we can balance the time that people need to concentrate on their work with the collaboration that’s needed.
So I’m hoping that going forward, it’s a hybrid model that values both personal time and personal space, as well as the need to collaborate with teams and get face-to-face with them as well.”
💡 Are data teams still perceived as report builders?
”There are still teams that consider the role of data is to create reports for other parts of the organization, and there are data teams that still operate that way.
But as you’re shifting more towards service data as a product approach, you see that [thought process] dissipate a little bit. It depends on your data strategy and how leaders think about it and implement it.
So if organizations are still viewing this as, ‘Hey, I have a question, I need to build a report for that,’ then you’re going to keep yourself pigeon-holed as a report builder.”
💡 Building a data strategy: What do we need from a defense and offense perspective?
”I think it is especially in data — and it’s kind of starting out in modernization — it’s easy to get trapped in the defense part. I mean your bread and butter data quality when I’m talking about defense — ensuring you have data catalogs and making sure all of those foundational pieces are in place.
But in this day and age, I think you can’t afford not to also push ahead in the offense space. And when I’m talking about offense, I mean a more forward-looking data collection strategy.
So, do I have information about how things are in my warehouses and refrigeration? Do I need to start thinking about IoT solutions that allow me to capture more data? Am I starting to think about what data will be required down the road as personalization gets much more targeted?
So I think it’s important that you bring the organization along in terms of understanding that there’s a defensive, basic foundational piece that needs to be done, but you can’t lose sight that things are moving and moving quickly. You have to be careful about thinking that those things have to be sequential.
How do you move forward in some of the offense and some of the innovative and forward-looking things while you’re building out that foundation?”
💡 Soft skills are required in today’s data space
”We often talk about how our role sometimes feels like the company counselor. You get to hear and see very different perspectives because data touches every single part of the organization.
And every part of the organization has different challenges and opportunities, and because it is so people-driven and ties all of your processes together, you have to take a nuanced approach to every part of the organization. You get to see what motivates people.”
💡 Data as a product
”A few years ago, as of this shift to data as a product, that mindset started to take hold. You started seeing that shift from the BI and data teams being reporting teams and report builders to more of a ‘Hey, we’re building a platform that people can interact with and get information and knowledge from’ and so, it was super important in the BI and then the analytics space. What we’re trying to do now at Sobeys is extend that same mindset to data domain ownership.”
💡 A piece of advice to make your data strategy thrive
”I think a good place to start is clearly defining what you’re trying to accomplish, and then you can figure out what that looks like. So one, what are you trying to accomplish? What culture already exists in the organization?
There have been a few times where I have, for example, AI projects and then an AI initiative that has, ‘Here’s the algorithm, here’s how we’re going to use it.’ To make it work, you’ve got to have this culture of test and learn, try and fail — an iterative approach to adding features and functionality.
If that doesn’t exist in the organization, that’s a lot of pressure on an individual AI project. You’re asking an individual AI project to change the culture of an entire organization.
So I think it’s important to take stock of the culture that exists and think about what changes are needed from an overall cultural perspective to make a data strategy thrive. Sometimes it’s important to spend some time on that, and then decide if you want a strategy that’s more focused on democratization and making sure that data gets into the hands of more people.
If you have a strategy that’s focused on external monetization, understand what your end goals are so that when you’re crafting a data strategy, it’s getting to the point.”
About Our Guest: Rupinder Dhillon
💡What she does: Rupinder is the Head of Enterprise Data Office at Sobeys.
💡Noteworthy: With a background in shaping and delivering Enterprise BI, Analytics, Data, and AI strategies, Rupinder is on a mission to help companies look at data as a strategic business enabler.
💡Where to find Rupinder: LinkedIn