Being data-smart is all about the data, right?

Collecting data is easy. Using it well is hard. Or at least harder than it should be.

We are working with an organization that aspires to be data-smart.

But what does being data-smart actually mean?

Potentially every piece of your organizational data has value but the bottom-line test is that data must make sense, and sometimes that only happens when data is part of cohesive, contextualized stories that both inform and challenge, and help turn insights into action. So here’s one take on what data-smart could actually mean.

…the bottom-line test is that data must make sense…

Let’s take the ubiquitous project as an example. This is how project data could make sense to everyone working with it and seeing it.

The Visitor
Anyone ‘virtually visiting a project’ for the first time should easily be able to understand exactly what the project is all about, and its state of play.  This is only possible when the project data is weaved into a true story, well told – on-line and in real-time. If your current toolkit, perhaps siloed and disconnected, doesn’t give you this simple outcome, then you’ve probably got it wrong.  

…understand exactly what the project is all about, and it’s state of play.

The Manager
Project managers must be given ownership of their Project Story and know that no-one else is able to manipulate and spin their data and their story. They must also know that their data is shared widely across the business and will inform other stakeholders. With that comes the responsibility to tell the truth. In terms of their project the project manager owns the truth-in-plain-sight. Sadly, most organizations have people dedicated to framing up information for management and Boards, and they assume responsibility for the truth, or at least a version of it. The question is whether this should still be happening given what technology – the right technology – is now capable of.

In terms of their project the project manager owns the truth-in-plain-sight.

The Internal Stakeholder
Boards and Executive teams, at the other end of the scale, responsible for maintaining an overview of the Organizational-wide Project Portfolio and the Value being delivered, need to understand, that because of the smart systems in place, what they are seeing in real-time Business Storyboards represents the truth, and hasn’t been manipulated.  As such, they then have the confidence to act on that data. 

This also means there’s no reason why Boards and Executives shouldn’t work from the same beautiful data…the same Storyboards – the same single source of the truth.  Here’s a radical thought. If they are working from the same data stories, then you could probably ditch the voluminous Board papers that appear to torment directors and can’t be fun for the people having to churn them out.

…there’s no reason why Boards and Executives shouldn’t work from the same beautiful data…the same Storyboards – the same single source of the truth.

And Board Directors and Executives will know if they choose to click on a link and visit a project – maybe for the very first time – that they’ll be seeing data that’s accurate and up-to-date. They’ll understand the story, and they’ll appreciate that the Project Manager has done the necessary work to make this happen, and is comfortable with them ‘visiting’ any time they choose.   This is then fostering teamwork all over the business which is the underpinning of an agile culture. Not a bad result really.   

The External Stakeholder
Now this is where things could get a bit controversial.  Imagine you work within a public sector agency as a project manager delivering something that will give real, sustainable value to External Stakeholders – the taxpayer – you and I.  You’ve already committed to truth-in-plain-sight and your Board and Executive teams applaud you for it.  So, here’s the thing. Why wouldn’t you extend this largesse to people outside the walls of the business.  Why shouldn’t we, as External Stakeholders with an interest in knowing what’s going on, be able to see the story of a project; any project. If you think about it that may well be the biggest story of all!  

Why shouldn’t we, as External Stakeholders with an interest in knowing what’s going on, be able to see the story of a project; any project.

If you think about it that may well be the biggest story of all!

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