#297 Panel: Understanding and Leveraging the Data Value Chain – Led by Marisa Fish w/ Tina Albrecht, Karolina Stosio, and Kinda El Maarry, PhD

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Marisa’s LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/marisafish/

Karolina’s LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/karolinastosio/

Tina’s LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/christina-albrecht-69a6833a/

Kinda’s LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kindamaarry/

In this episode, guest host Marisa Fish (guest of episode #115), Senior Technical Architect at Salesforce facilitated a discussion with Kinda El Maarry, PhD, Director of Data Governance and Business Intelligence at Prima (guest of episode #246), Tina Albrecht, Senior Director Transformation at Exxeta (guest of episode #228), and Karolina Stosio, Senior Project Manager of AI at Munich Re. As per usual, all guests were only reflecting their own views.

The topic for this panel was understanding and leveraging the data value chain. This is a complicated but crucial topic as so many companies struggle to understand the collection + storage, processing, and then specifically usage of data to drive value. There is way too much focus on the processing as if upstream of processing isn’t a crucial aspect and as if value just happens by creating high-quality data.

Also, we lost Karolina for a bit there towards the end due to a spotty internet connection.

Scott note: As per usual, I share my takeaways rather than trying to reflect the nuance of the panelists’ views individually.

Scott’s Top Takeaways:

  1. If you want to dig deeper into the data value chain, consider looking into the value streams concept. What flows through your business in terms of process to generate value? Where are there points of value leakage? The same concepts are crucial in your value chain.
  2. Organizations need to really educate their entire organization on the data value chain. Part of why there are so many issues in data from upstream changes by developers breaking downstream data is they simply don’t know what parts of their data are used and why. Communication is a much bigger aspect of doing data than people think.
  3. Even talking about the specific data value chain can cause people to focus too much on the data work instead of the business value delivered via data. The data value chain is crucial to understand but it’s also crucial to understand data work doesn’t inherently create value, it’s about how it’s used in the business. Dig into the value created and focus on working backwards from that to what data work needs to be done.
  4. The data value chain is crucial for companies of all sizes across all industries. At its heart, the concept is about focusing on ensuring you aren’t leaking value in your business value streams/pipelines. You need to focus on what drives value and how to improve the processes there.
  5. Data value chains often cross line of business/domain boundaries. After all, a lot of the value of data is about combining information across those boundaries. That can mean cross-team handoffs, which make understanding and ensuring the success of those data value chains even harder. Who owns what isn’t inherently understood/agreed to, you need to get specific.
  6. It’s important to not get overly focused on a single end-point of value when it comes to data work, especially when it comes to a data product. If we want re-use, we have to focus on the processes of creating reusable value. Maintaining that larger picture focus while still ensuring each data consumer can still get value from a data product is a very hard balance.
  7. Focusing heavily on your data value chain is going to be hard. It means hard work and a lot of internal collaboration – and thus negotiation – across domain boundaries. You all have to be in it together to really get the best results – and some organizations aren’t ready for that. But the hard work pays off because you are ensuring value actually gets created.
  8. As with anything in data, you have to make bets. That doesn’t mean every bit of data work will create significant value or even exceed the investment. But an approach like data value chain is crucial to understand 1) what bets are you making and why and 2) who owns what aspects of the data work. That can help you really focus on the what and why rather than focusing on outputs.

Other Important Takeaways (many touch on similar points from different aspects):

  1. As with many things in data, ownership is crucial to understanding your value chain. The weakest points in a value chain are the handoffs between teams. Strong ownership, including of those handoffs, prevents value leakage (from the value streams concept).
  2. To understand your data value chain, you will have to go deeper than many are willing to in the (dreaded?) operational plane. You have to understand what data you have, how it’s collected, what data you can collect, etc. Some of it is working backward from what data you need/want but a lot of it is working from what data you have or can get.
  3. Relatedly, the value you can create from data is heavily reliant on what matters to the business. To think about value, you have to understand your business processes and what generates actual value.
  4. You really need to consider your approach to data collection and storage. How do you want to consider data that may have value but hasn’t yet proven to have value? You don’t want to have costs go out of control and most data is never back-cleaned/filled if it wasn’t collected and stored for use. But you can’t know all your data use cases at the launch of a new application or product. It’s a balancing act.
  5. There is a question of how mature do you need to be as an organization to actually really consider using data value chain as a framework instead of merely some principles to guide your work. It can be hard to get people to understand the value and what drives that value in data when they don’t understand data work in general.
  6. Relatedly, really digging into the data value chain can shine a light on underperforming activities inside and outside the data function. So you need to be prepared for some hard realizations and questions. Are you ready for transparency?
  7. What aspect of data value chains fall on the business? It’s a hard question. At the end of the day, data value chains are supportive of the business value chains/streams but it depends on who has ownership over data work: the lines of business or a centralized team. Your data value chains should have explicit ownership, at least of the different ‘links’ of the chain.
  8. In data mesh especially but true in any data work, it’s important to not see the data product as the end of the data value chain. The data product is there to make it easy for producers to reliably and scalably deliver value through data. But there is only value if that data is consumed, the value happens when someone takes action.
  9. When launching new applications/products, you have to consider what data you might want to collect even if you don’t need it right at the start. Especially if that is something like hardware where you can’t augment many aspects of the devices once they’ve been deployed.
  10. Focusing on data value chains is a mindset shift for most organizations, much like data as a product thinking. You need to get people to stop handwaving about aspects of data work and focus specifically on value and understanding that all parts of the data creation and transformation process are crucial to driving rich and sustainable value from data.
  11. Even if you do a good job at understanding your data value chains, there will still need to be rework. But it can help you prioritize data rework – you aren’t going to get your data preparation perfect, especially for multiple consumers, on the first try.
  12. You have to be realistic about your data value. Your company probably won’t value data and analytics that are internal facing as much as they do external-facing interactions until you prove out the value of treating those internal users with as much care. Part of that is getting specific about how much value you are generating and how :)
  13. At some point in your value chain, you aren’t dealing with raw data anymore. Think about who wants what and why. Most execs want aggregated information – again, that point of driving business value instead of data work. Make sure there is clear communication to drive outcomes instead of outputs.
  14. A data value chain isn’t about getting everything perfect upfront. Everything is about incremental delivery and getting better. What is the cost/benefit of that improvement? Get something out that works and is supportable/stable and then improve. Iteration is your friend.
  15. When thinking about your data value chain, it’s usually best to focus again on target business outcomes/objectives. After all, that is where the value is. You can get more business people interested in data work if you are constantly talking in their language about their key objectives.

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All music used this episode was found on PixaBay and was created by (including slight edits by Scott Hirleman): Lesfm, MondayHopes, SergeQuadrado, ItsWatR, Lexin_Music, and/or nevesf

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