It's hard to cut through the noise
Our Chief Creative Officer sits on the DDI Skills Gateway advisory board and is a passionate advocate of embedding data skills across all organisations, and making those skills accessible to everyone.
She believes the ability to understand data, use it effectively and draw insights from it will be needed in almost every future job role. “It might be extreme to say you will not have a job in the future without data skills, but so many jobs will depend on having those skills,” she says. “So we have to plug training and learning gaps to deliver a workforce that’s ready for that future.”
"Data skills are relevant to so many roles that gaining them means you can move across sectors more easily"
Jefferson feels we also need to re-think the language we use:
“Data science can sound a bit complicated and scary. We have talked about this a lot at the DDI and must be careful not just to preach to the converted. Data must not be exclusive.
“Data science is an advanced discipline and for most people, it’s about data skills relevant to their work. They need the tools to make their use of data straightforward, across all vocational educational platforms.
“It’s up to those of us in the creative industries to make it effortless and joined-up for individuals, and for organisations.
“For individuals, it means their careers can be more exciting, and future-proofed. Data skills are relevant to so many roles that gaining them means you can move across sectors more easily.
“For organisations, it’s about seeing they can be more efficient and agile if they put data at the heart of their business, if they create data dashboards offering a holistic and easily understood analysis of what is happening.
This requires strong leadership on data, Jefferson says, but what does that leadership look like?
“Bringing in expert teams to educate the executives, and using dashboards to show how the business as a whole is performing,” says Jefferson. “It means clear, easy-to-access operational dashboards to make decisions more scientific and less based on gut instinct.
“Ultimately, it means building an organisation around an integrated data strategy which looks at how your processes work, and how you interact with customers – and accepting significant cultural and structural changes that come with that, including a culture that thrives on accountability. That means making people realise they are more accountable for their actions.”
Jefferson recognises this can create friction.
“Data makes people more accountable and not everyone likes that!” she says.
“I had to sell measurable marketing to one customer and when I talked about the need to measure marketing success, there were looks of horror around the table! That culture of accountability is probably the hardest part. But if you can embed data tools and a data culture, so much value can be added to an organisation.”
Agile and flexible start-up businesses, not held back by legacy systems, are better-placed to embed a genuine data strategy, says Jefferson. There is more inertia with ‘traditional’ sectors, she says, but all industries face digital disruption and must grasp the data challenge.
“Data is not yet a fundamental part of how one establishes a business,” says Jefferson. “We’re not quite there in how we create data-driven business structures that we can scale in a measurable way – but there is lots of great work going on.
But the industry has a long way to go
“It’s an evolutionary journey but organisations will have to adopt data tools to be measurable and accountable, because data-driven insights are fundamental to any organisation maintaining agility and staying ahead of the competition.”
Jefferson is also passionate about greater data diversity: “The data world can be seen as exclusive, about high IQs, and a bit male. At every level, we need to find ways to make it diverse and encourage different groups of people. It must be about diversity of opportunity.
“I’m virtually allergic to numbers but I can see why data is so important. The team at Equator is using data in how we design our offer to all customers – what insights can be gleaned from data and how it can drive better performance. It’s part of our daily working lives.”
This article was originally published as part of the DDI Skills Gateway #Datayou series, March 2021.