There are many ways to develop a Data Strategy. I don’t pretend to have ‘the best way’, but I do know – from long experience – what works and what doesn’t. This was somewhat thrown into turmoil when COVID-19 enforced virtual working.

Since then I’m close to completing my second virtual strategy delivery, and will soon be starting a third. I was asked by my latest client to summarise the differences/challenges/opportunities of creating Data Strategies through virtual delivery.

I thought it would be useful to share what I feel are the key points.:

Engagement: virtual breakouts, voting, time for discussions, etc. You really have to work hard on this because there is little visual and verbal feedback.

Short sessions: 45 minutes and a 15 minute break. No exceptions. Don’t overrun.

Half day workshops: Even with these breaks, 4 hours is the absolute max.

Interim Mini workshops: to develop content at pace. The option of potentially 20 attendees modifying a single document is just not logistically feasible. So create smaller teams focussed on individual content, and create space in workshops for peer review.

File management: It sounds a trivial thing, but having an index of documents in Teams/Sharepoint with strong version control, and an explanation of what each is for is really important for effective collaboration.

Workshop spacing: Leave enough time between workshops for review and reflection, but not so much that momentum is lost.

Transcripts: Absolutely vital. Most of ours run to 10+ pages recording chat window discussions, verbal discussions, decisions, actions and escalations. Very useful for me when creating content between workshops, very useful to everyone else if sessions were missed and supporting a reflective approach.

Moderation: Having a second person moderating breakouts, chat windows, questions etc has allowed me to focus entirely on content and engagement. I don’t believe I could be effective in that role without the support.

Really though, this all circles back to engagement. Understanding your attendees’ motivations and what they need from the workshops. This means being flexible in terms who attends which workshop, and who is chosen for the mini workshops. From here it’s about getting everyone behind the content created and lined up behind the ‘ask’ to deliver the strategy. Leave no attendee behind!

I have learned much in the last four months. This has iteratively improved the approach both in terms of logistics, content and delivery. I am sure there is always more to do.

However this is where I’ve got to now. I like to call these virtual learnings.