One year on from the launch of DataIQ Leaders, much has changed in the world of data and analytics. Ever more organisations are building out data and analytics centres of excellence, appointing chief data officers and chief analytics officers, and innovating around new techniques like artificial intelligence and machine learning.
Members of the DataIQ Leaders advisory board are pioneers in both these fields and their own businesses. We caught up with them to see what new challenges are arising, how their organisations are supporting them in roles that are driving the fourth industrial revolution, and how being part of a peer group membership service has played a part in their success over the last year.
Andy Day, chief data officer, Sainsbury’s and chair, DataIQ Leaders advisory board (AD)
Martin Aylward, head of smart technology delivery, EDF Energy (MA)
David Hayes, chief data officer, Santander UK (DH)
Rob Kent, chief data officer, Royal Mail (RK)
Kate Teh, director of legal, Telegraph News and Media (KT)
Adam Williamson, customer analytics director, Jaguar Land Rover (AW)
DataIQ Leaders: What would you say is your biggest challenge in 2018 around recruitment and skills development in your data and analytics department?
Andy Day: “There are a couple of significant challenges. Firstly, attracting talent when you are completing with the perceived ‘cool’ companies and digital pure-plays. Secondly, keeping them when salaries are going up as data, analytics and AI become ‘cool’. So, making sure you have the framework for skills development and give colleagues a reason to stay beyond doing interesting work into personal development is a challenge and a focus area.”
Martin Aylward: “Recruiting mid- and senior-level analysts that really understand the business challenges we are facing. I see lots of very good analysts, but the ones I need are the ones that can see where they and their analysis can add value.”
“Finding a blend of commercial and analytical skills is still challenging." - Kate Teh
David Hayes: “Retaining the key people who can cross both the technical and business skills domains because it is at this level where we get the most value and the role is at its most rewarding.”
Rob Kent: “Attracting the right skills in a competitive market and then retaining them. It’s also important to filter out the wrong skills as everyone advertises themselves with all the buzzword technologies, but the depth often isn’t there.”
Kate Teh: “Finding a blend of commercial and analytical skills is still challenging. Data analysts also tend to like chunky projects to work on over a period of weeks. However, the nature of our publishing industry dictates a constant flow of smaller, tactical projects that require a light touch.”
Key takeouts: Recruiting good analysts is hard. Retention is getting harder. Business-minded analysts could be the new unicorns.
DataIQ Leaders: How well supported are you both internally and by external services in addressing this challenge?
AD: “We very deliberately set out with our recruitment team to create a brand to attract talent that recognises the importance of people and their skills in the world of data and analytics. We created The Humanalysts brand (which doesn’t look like Sainsbury’s at all) to do this. We’ve got good cut through with it.”
“We have also deliberately sponsored industry events, including Women in Data, to try and attract talent. Beyond that, we have allocated a significant budget for training and development and hired a specific individual in the team to make sure this remains a core focus. For us, this includes internal training, using external organisations for some training and using our own people as subject matter experts.”
“Data as a profession is still in its infancy." - David Hayes
MA: “Fairly well. We are building an analyst community across the business and analysts that move around different parts of the business often are able to add most value. Our partners, including CACI and TCS, are also on hand to support and have provided excellent resource on the ground to remove certain data and analysis pinch points.”
DH: “Data as a profession is still in its infancy and, because of the pace of change, there are very few players internally or externally who understand the skills needed and are able to support the resource models that would make a big difference.”
RK: “We are doing ok. HR has adapted to our specific needs which is bearing fruit. We also have good agencies who are tuned to our needs. But the best channel to-date has been LinkedIn and our direct presence on this network and the approaches we are receiving seem to be paying off.”
KT: “We are fortunate to have a very strong HR support team and a significant investment in skills development within the wider insight and analytics division in 2018. This means we can use training courses (internal and external) to support softer skills, eg, stakeholder management, presentation skills, data storytelling, etc.”
Key takeouts: Data leaders need to buddy-up with HR and reliable external business partners. There are gaps. But what works for recruitment generally (a good brand, social network presence) works here, too.
DataIQ Leaders: What role has DataIQ Leaders played in helping you to identify and then address this challenge?
AD: “Over the last 12 months, I think that I’ve learnt two things through DataIQ Leaders. Firstly, the problems we face at Sainsbury’s in recruitment, development and retention of colleagues are not unique. Secondly, that the way that organisations around the Leaders table have addressed the challenges are different. There clearly isn’t a silver bullet. But it’s been invaluable both knowing that we aren’t alone and being able to steal ideas from other businesses!”
MA: “The thing I value most about DataIQ Leaders is being able to talk openly to like-minded senior data people who are facing very similar challenges, even though we are working at a wide range of organisations.”
DH: “We are new to DataIQ Leaders and, right now, it is very analytics-focused, rather than data management focussed. But I can see this playing a big role in helping the teams to develop their softer skills and there’s a natural crossover between both aspects that DataIQ Leaders can help us with.”
RK: “DataIQ Leaders has been invaluable as we have been able to learn from what others are doing and I like to think we have reciprocated. Our emerging stars have also been involed in the roundtables and workshops and have come back saying that they found them really useful.”
"Being able to tap in to a network to understand what works and doesn't work is very helpful.” - Adam Williamson
KT: “The DataIQ Leaders roundtables are helpful to identify the challenges and create a forum for discussion with other organisations. That helps us to identify our own needs for the specific challenges that we face and helps formulate our thinking around the types of skills and talent required. The events and workshops help with training to support softer skills.”
Adam Williamson: “The DataIQ Leaders programme provides highly-bespoke training for the analytics arena and is particularly valuable for developing softer skills. My team appreciates learning alongside peers from other industries about how to improve stakeholder relationships or creating better briefs and can relate more readily to the anecdotes and perspectives than in an internal course targeted at a more general audience.”
“I particularly appreciate being able to meet my counterparts in other organisations and compare notes, approaches and views. Actionable analytics is ultimately about cultural change - one of the toughest challenges in any industry - and being able to tap in to a network to discuss change strategies and understand what works and doesn't work is very helpful.”
Key takeouts: Individual companies may have unique challenges, but the challenges facing the data and analytics sector share a lot in common. Discussing them with a peer group can help to identify solutions - and avoid the feeling that “it’s just us”.
DataIQ Leaders: How important is it, in your view, to develop your networking and soft skills as part of being a leader of the data and analytics department?
AD: “In my opinion, creating a good network is critical no matter what career you pursue. But I think its more important in the data and analytics area as it’s both emerging and changing rapidly. With regards to soft skills, I don’t think there is a more important area for data leaders. Over the next few years, the availability of good analysts and data scientists will increase, so the role of leadership will be to understand how you can train and develop teams to communicate and interact with the wider business, as well as continuing to be the ‘chief cheerleader’ for data-driven change.”
MA: “Throughout my career, my external network has helped me enormously, giving support and an alternative view for the business opportunities and challenges we all face on a day-to-day basis. DataIQ Leaders has provided a structured way to maintain and expand this network and is proving to be a very valuable part of my toolkit.”
"Being able to tell and sell the story to senior stakeholders is half the battle." - Rob Kent
RK: “I have always maintained that being able to tell and sell the story to senior stakeholders is half the battle. You can have the best mathematicians and Scala coders in the world, but if they can’t explain what it means in business terms or in terms of the value it can create, then you are nowhere. Furthermore, establishing and maintaining a network of like-minded people in this emerging discipline has been invaluable in avoiding pitfalls. Equally, there is no single way of executing a strategy and it’s brilliant to hear how others are progressing.”
DH: “Soft skills are as important as the technical skills and, in some ways, harder to learn or develop for people who have been in the data world a long time. To lead in data, you have to inspire, motivate, cajole, influence and persuade in equal measure, choosing the right time for the right approach to get the right outcome. Having a technical background is great, but without the soft skills to back this up it is very difficult to be effective as a data leader.”
KT: “It is a vital component of the role and one that can help both the team and the business by exposure to a wider professional circle.”
Key takeouts: Data and analytics leaders have strong technical skills. But leadership is tough to learn. What others have found useful and can share is extremely valuable in closing this gap.