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21 September 2018

How to sort out Data Analytics and AI: Data Strategy (Part 2)

David Blackwell

David Blackwell
Partner | Data, analytics and AI | London

In a shameless appropriation and mangling of a concept from Pixar’s The Incredibles… “When everything is important, nothing is important.” 

Remembering back to the previous blog… once you have dutifully scoured the organisation to understand how data can support the delivery of business strategy, becalming those who want the world on a plate and cajoling those who can’t see beyond the end of next week, you will have inevitably found yourself with lots of things that need fixing / doing / optimising. 

Unless you are in the fortunate position of having infinite resources and time (not unlike an opposition politician I suppose), you will have to make some choices.  You will have to prioritise. 
This is the moment that consultants love, because they can unleash a two-by-two matrix on the problem, mapping the value of an initiative against its complexity.  If they have got past the first chapter of “Say it with charts”, they may also create a third dimension, which might be cost (NB. it is possible to have something that is easy to execute but expensive – kind of like buying a Bentley). 
Dropping out of this prioritisation exercise is your “list of stuff to do”.   In order to bring this to life in a manner which is more exciting than… say… oh I don’t know… a list of work-streams in an excel file, we often steal from the world of digital agencies and use personas.  (As a quick aside, does anyone else find it strange that people who specialise in “digital” are typically the most enthusiastic users of the very un-digital medium of sticky notes?).
Anyway, personas simply explain what an individual (be that a customer, an employee or exec) will be able to do as a consequence of the data initiative being realised.  For example: “As a customer service agent, I will be able to see details of when we have spoken to the customer, and all the products they have bought from us. This will allow me to provide them with the correct advice.”
There isn’t necessarily a one-to-one mapping between personas and initiatives, as multiple initiatives may impact and realise benefits for a persona (or personas).  So whilst you can save yourself the strain of meeting the Barbara Minto MECE test, it is important that the personas are collectively exhaustive.  Or, quite simply, you will miss stuff.
The concept of “telling stories” is very much in vogue, so personas are a great way of telling the story of a data strategy and bringing it to life.  There is of course a need for much more detail and left-brain rigour to translate the prioritised wish-list into a plan (I will come on to the “practicalities” of planning and delivery in the next blog), but personas bridge the gap between a dry statement of requirements and the “wouldn’t it be awesome if…” puppy-dog enthusiasm of a vision. 
Next up, practicality abound – “planning”.