#303 Delivering What Matters – Value – Through Strong Business Collaboration – Interview w/ Saba Ishaq

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Saba’s LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/sabaishaq/

Decide Data website: ttps://www.decidedata.com/

In this episode, Scott interviewed Saba Ishaq, CEO and Founder of her own data as a service consultancy, Decide Data, which also provides 3rd party DAaaS (Data Analytics as a Service) solutions.

Some key takeaways/thoughts from Saba’s point of view:

  1. “If you don’t know what you want, you’re going to end up with a lot of what you don’t want.” This is especially true in collaborating with business stakeholders when it comes to data ๐Ÿ˜…
  2. Focus on delivering value through data instead of delivering data and assuming it has value. โ€“ โ€œNot all data is created equal.โ€
  3. As a data leader, it’s your role to help people figure out what they actually want by asking great questions and being a strong partner when it comes to the data/data work. Don’t only focus on the data work itself but it’s very easy to do data work for the sake of it instead of something that is valuable.
  4. To deliver data work that actually moves the needle, we need to start from what are the key business processes and then understand the pain points and opportunities. Then, good data work is about how do we support and improve those business processes.
  5. Relatedly, that’s also the best way to drive exec alignment – talking about their business processes and how they can be improved first, data work second. They will feel seen and heard and are far more likely to lean in. At the end of the day addressing business and operational challenges is what data and analytics is all about.
  6. Deliver something valuable early in any data collaboration with a business stakeholder. You don’t have to deliver an entire completed project but time to first insight is time to value and you build momentum and credibility with that stakeholder.
  7. At the beginning of a project – and delivering a data product is itself a project – you should work with stakeholders to not just define target outcomes but also define how are you going to collaborate and communicate. You can’t just get requirements, go away and build. Working with data should be iterative and should have an element of continuous improvement to evolve what you deliver as you build value.
  8. Start any data work by asking someone about their business objectives, challenges, and target outcomes. You need your business stakeholders to have a clear vision of what they want to achieve, otherwise you are likely to be delivering only data work instead of business value that leverages your data work.
  9. By doing deep discovery work, you can find where are the key lynchpins and value drivers in a use case. There are points of criticality that are easy to lose in a sea of potential requirements that are really requests. Find those crucial value leverage points!
  10. Relatedly, you can use those value leverage points to keep your business execs engaged. They will – hopefully – see the importance and help you narrow in on what matters in their use case. Then it’s no longer about the data work but the value to them.
  11. ?Controversial?: For data people, you have to balance career management and interesting project/technology work versus value delivery. That doesn’t mean delivering value isn’t interesting but it doesn’t always mean getting to play with the latest and greatest. But if data people never get to have fun and play with cool tech, many will leave. It’s a tough balance. Try to make the valuable work also interesting ๐Ÿ˜….
  12. Relatedly, try understanding the data teamโ€™s learning areas of interest and see how you can build seeds to foster their skill growth while making data work valuable. Sometimes it turns out to be a win-win situation.
  13. Relatedly, be very transparent and communicate a lot to your data teams about what you are prioritizing and why. It’s very easy to get lost in telling data people to do certain work rather than why they are doing that work. Keeping your data people in the loop of the why will keep them focused on what matters.
  14. For many organizations, the rate of change of their technology – application and data technologies – is growing at faster than the rate of their people change management/transformation processes. You need parallel streams to modernize both or your people will fall further behind, leading to chaos.
  15. ?Controversial?: Relatedly, your overall org and/or digital transformation strategy should be tied to your data strategy. Otherwise, they will likely be heading in different directions, creating more challenges. Scott note: Benny Benford talked a lot about this in episode #244, going far together.
  16. Data management is a very crucial element of digital transformation but itโ€™s not the same thing as change management. The data team shouldn’t be the ones leading the overall digital transformation of the organization. That’s too much on a team that specializes in data rather than change management. If you are in that situation, it’s a very tough spot to do well.
  17. It’s very important to focus on communication to stakeholders when you think about data governance and digital transformation. For many execs, these are foreign topics so you have to work hard to engage them and keep them leaning forward on the necessary work. Data governance is beneficial for everyone, so if explained and defined well people will engage willingly after knowing whatโ€™s in it for them.
  18. As someone in the data team, you have to be well informed about digital transformation initiatives inside your organization. Otherwise, you will miss opportunities to align to those initiatives AND have all your data sources break when there is a migration you weren’t told about ๐Ÿ˜…
  19. It’s easy to screw up the data steward/ownership conversation letting someone know they are responsible for the governance of their data. It’s often a scary conversation for both parties. But it’s necessary and you can show people why it makes sense and adds value to their work too!
  20. Relatedly, link people’s pain points to current weaknesses in the data governance. Show them they are causing issues for themselves and give them an easier path to fix it without having to learn everything about data work.
  21. Data governance doesn’t have to be some wholly – or holy ๐Ÿ˜… – separate practice. It should just be part of normal work related to data. Make it less scary and more approachable for your business stakeholders. It’s a team effort and it drives real, measurable benefits and value.

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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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