Ramneet Julka is head of advanced analytics consulting practice at Barclays UK and has a clear process for doing the job that she does. She also has a comprehensive list of skills that she needs her team members to possess.
Before starting any work, it is fundamental to have data and domain expertise. This means you understand what is happening in the wider automation, innovation and AI space. "Therefore you can bring that to the table when you sit with the businesses,” she said. The next step is to introduce yourself and build credibility with the business by understanding that client.
"Win hearts and minds to get additional investment."
Following that, create data-driven use cases, and before making any investment, create prototypes to prove the solution will be successful. “Win hearts and minds and then you get that additional investment,” she advised. Then, it is essential to engage when iterating by taking on feedback to incorporate the business’ perspective. Then deploy, deliver and monitor feedback.
There are specific skills required of the team members who are part of this process. They need to be well versed in the core technical skills of data and analytics in addition to the soft skills of communication, networking and negotiation.
"With visualisation you are getting the stakeholder to make a decision with data."
Other mandatory skills include visualisation, communication and business acumen. In terms of visualisation, Julka said that you’ve got to think about the message that you are trying to land. “When you are sitting with the stakeholder, you are trying to get them to make a decision with the data that you have,” she said. “Insightful data leads to action so you’ve got to get the right visualisation.”
She said that visualisations are ultimately about driving a decision and therefore she has to choose the one chart that will help the business make that decision. It is ideal if you can take a massive amount of data and make it digestible.
With regard to communication skills, there are several components to effective communication, according to Julka. One key aspect is to know your audience and therefore change and refine the message depending on who is listening. This means paying attention to non-verbal cues and adapting by changing the tone, speed or volume. It also means looking out for any barriers to communication and removing them where possible.
“Be confident, clear, concise and respectful when listening to challenges."
“Be confident, clear, concise and respectful when listening to challenges. Be flexible in terms of taking feedback. Just having EQ [emotional intelligence] is important,” Julka explained.
Business acumen is about understanding and meeting the needs of the client. Whether you are in a business or a consultancy, understanding what your client is trying to achieve is the starting point that allows you to have a meaningful dialogue with them.
In many organisations, the demand for big data analytics is a lot higher than the supply so you need to have good judgement to foresee where it will drive the highest impact, and know overall what is most important to the business.
"Talk about data not just being reactive but proactive."
It is also important to focus on the client vision and thoroughly understand what the organisation is trying to achieve and the direction in which it is heading.
Finally, strategic thinking is about having a long-term vision of how analytics can drive value and mapping the path towards that.
Also, strategic thinking is fundamental to shaping powerful strategies. “If you want to play at the C-suite level and talk about data not just being reactive but proactive, then understand the strategy and therefore you can use data to influence the strategy.”