Testing out the whiteboard. Optional Labrador available for all remote workshops!

Let’s start by saying there are far more important things going on in the world right now. We’re in uncharted territory with the concept of being on a ‘war footing’ not seeming too far-fetched. The efforts being made by our healthcare, retail, logistics and so many other sectors renders what we do significantly less important.

Although how data is being used in this crisis is fascinating. We’ll be back to that in a later post.

Our approach has been to control only what we can control and not to worry about what we cannot! Firstly, we asked our customers what their plans were.  They all chose to carry on with the project, initiatives and mentoring around improving their data, and the governance framework to support that.

This was very welcome and a bit of a surprise. It is great that, after the initial shock of potentially months of ‘face to face shutdown’, there is almost universal support to find new ways to move the data agenda on.

Frankly this means a lot of work for us! We spend at least 50% of our time directly with customers. Interestingly we’d already moved much  of the 1:1 mentoring to some form of remote collaboration. Workshops are more difficult, especially when it’s new customers, when you’re attempting to gain the trust of people you’ve never met.

We’ll write some posts on our remote collaboration approach. It’s early days in terms of delivery but, so far, it’s working well. The key was to think about ‘engagement’ and ‘collaboration’ as separate things. Watch this space for more in the coming weeks.

The summary, for this part of the blog, is we’re very grateful to our customers for embracing these current events in a positive manner, and, staying focussed on good outcomes for data.

Within these customer organisations, we’re hearing lots of interesting stories around how data is being used. Two themes are emerging; firstly, the speed in which data is ‘needed’ has resulted in the normal – often hidden – hygiene process being skipped. Secondly, there are requests for data that either doesn’t exist or cannot be easily located.

For example, one university is concerned about the possibly of legionnaires disease in its shuttered buildings. Data for where the tanks are, when they were last heated above 65 degrees and whether this process is automated is spotty at best. It’s in someone’s head for sure, but that someone has always been present and able to respond in person.

Another example is around financial forecasting numbers which in ‘normal’ circumstances would go through one, two or even three rounds of cleansing and validation QA before being submitted to the senior leadership team. That’s not happening in our ‘new normal’ so dirty is being dragged into the light.

While short term this is problematic, because these decisions are incredibly important and need to supported by data of the right quality, it is highlighting issues we’re traditionally struggled to get recognised by this senior leadership group. We should consider this as an opportunity to engage with this group and other communities who have not generally considered data (or certainly DQ or DG) as a priority.

We need to be clear when discussing data; firstly, don’t be an apologist for ‘bad data’, rather offer pragmatic and inclusive solutions. Secondly, don’t strive for perfection, let’s talk about tolerances not certainties. This is a good time to explain that data doesn’t need to be perfect, it just needs to be fit for purpose.

Our next post will be on remote collaboration – the approach taken, and the tools used. Before that Alex is running a data owners training course with Nicola, and we are starting on a set of data strategy workshops with people we’ve only met virtually.

Until then please check out the front page of the website as we’ve updated all the services based on the current social distancing rules. We’ve also added a ‘book a call’ page if you’d like to get in touch. We think it’s incredibly important to keep talking during this crisis.

It’s going to be a learning experience for us all 😉