There was a Six Nations-sized gap in the weekend just gone, a gap which left me time to reflect on the tournament and rugby in general. During these wistful musings, I started to imagine what it would be like to have 15 clones of one player making up a team and, no matter which player I picked, I predicted the resultant team would struggle badly.
If you took a high-level view of the game, you would see that wingers get more tries than their team-mates, so to score lots of tries, just get 15 wingers - 15 George Norths would make a lot of yards in the backs, but be crucified in the front-row. Similarly, 15 Dylan Hartleys would be torn apart in the backs. Rugby truly is a game where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. (Other team sports are available.)
As more and more companies are starting to hear about and understand the advantages of data, particularly big data, they are naturally keen to take advantage of its potential. Now, not all companies fully understand data, so a high-level view shows that advanced analytics, predictive models and deep learning make the money.
With this information - and the assumption that its data is in a good state - a company may decide to build itself a data science team to perform advanced analytics. Easy money! The reality is that, even if it manages to hire a team, that team quickly finds itself bogged down doing “data prep” for the vast majority of its time and not delivering as expected. Poor old George North is struggling in the scrum.
For a company to get real value out of data - to turn that data into money - there are a lot of hard yards involved. Data needs to be sourced, it needs to be governed, quality checks and improvements need to be carried out, it needs to be stored cohesively for easy retrieval, security and compliance need to be integrated (GDPR!), reports and dashboards need to be produced both adhoc and regularly. Analytics, predictive models and research need to be employed to take advantage of the data, then stories need to be created to sell the benefits and processes adapted to take advantage of new learnings.
Only by blending the right set of skills can a great data team be formed, a team capable of unlocking the value hidden in data. And, who knows, maybe in its spare time it’ll unlock the secrets of rugby.