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Safety Catch Skills Are Needed In The Data Bootcamp

Safety Catch Skills Are Needed In The Data Bootcamp

Data grows. The digital creation and encapsulation of information moves onwards, forwards, upwards and outwards on an ever-spiralling and mushrooming journey of eternal expansion all the time.

Thinking about how we will work with data on the road ahead typically leads IT vendors to make relatively inevitable comments that fall into a broad brush category of predictable postulation platitudes. Spokespeople love to talk about every company becoming a data-driven organization, the need to democratize data-literacy across entire departments and the need to understand why data is any firm’s strongest asset – above and beyond its equipment, process competencies and perhaps even its people.

Arguably more interesting are those technology specialists who lean towards talking about how data will now be used at a core practical level. There is a clear and pressing need to look for parts of the business where data models and datasets can be reused without us having to reinvent the wheel every time.

The swing to data value

Another way of putting this is the move to an understanding of data value.

According to Satyen Sangani in his role of CEO and co-founder of data management & analytics company Alation, “In 2023, the pendulum will swing from innovation to value as these [data-driven decision-making focused] organizations navigate economic uncertainty.”

Don’t hold your breath, but Sangani is suggesting we might hear less about these tired and hackneyed initiatives for ‘innovation’ over and over again. Indeed – beyond innovation we need to move through Return on Investment (ROI) because we’ve already been there and discussed that too – we now need to know what value a business is getting out of its data.

It could happen i.e. those IT projects that don’t have a data value line on their spreadsheet simply won’t get funded.

Clearly, this means enabling data democracy and enabling the so-called citizen data scientist, but we will need to do this with care and not hand over too much power on two levels a) by putting the wrong data tools in the hands of the wrong people and giving them access to data that they shouldn’t be wrangling – and b) by attempting to shift off too much responsibility from professional data scientists (and indeed buisnesspeople) and just ‘expecting’ comparatively average users to come up with the answers.

Despite these caveats, Sangani still insists that platforms will need to be built for the non-technical data user. “Breaking down silos by connecting everything and being easily adoptable and engaging so all users, regardless of role, can find, understand and use data collaboratively. The platforms that do not execute this level of cross-organizational data governance and data democratization will become obsolete,” he said.

The rise of data bootcamps

Sangani’s colleague John Wills is field CTO at Alation. Suggesting that 2023 will see a big push for data democracy, Wills uses the term data bootcamps to describe what could (or perhaps should) now happen.

“In addition to a greater focus on data literacy, next year [2023] will be the year of data bootcamps, where organizations increasingly turn to external data training services to upskill employees, helping both to improve the overall quality of data talent whilst also elevating the importance of data and creating an attractive data culture.”

What is a data bootcamp? As suggested, this could be a skills initiative day with employees given hands-on practical training in the use of data analytics tools. Tasked with solving fabricated problems based upon dummy data, users could look for patterns, trends, outliers and flags to direct the deeper use of information tools and eventually be able to apply them to their own workplace challenges. After the blank weapons have been used throughout the bootcamp experience, presumably it would be time to let employees loose on the open battlefield with live ammunition.

There are many more caveats, stipulations, conditions and limitations to enabling this all to happen, especially given the reality of the Covid-driven ‘great resignation’ and the continued reality of employees working from home. That means more data being worked on remotely, sometimes at the kitchen dining table.

As he has said before here, according to Alation’s Wills, “This higher rate of turnover put added strain on already tapped businesses as they lost talented employees and the crucial institutional knowledge that often went with them. For organizations that didn’t have strong data retention systems in place, the information lost with employees can be hard if not impossible to replace. As businesses look to avoid such losses in the future, more will turn to data intelligence platforms that can store, organize and surface key knowledge to mitigate the impact an employee loss can have on a business.”

More controls, clean kills

We have used the terms (above) open battlefield & live ammunition for a reason; as we move forward on the march towards data value (which in this analogy might represent clean kills perhaps?) and capturing the flag, we will need to think about how we balance the amount of funds going into data regulation compliance and away from data innovation.

From the industry perspective, automation can help here massively. The Alation team reminds us that so many powerful data access and security controls are now automated and have been for a while. But, they say, we can expect data governance automation to blend existing automated operations with data governance policy-making to free-up time for data teams to focus on business innovation without leaving a business at risk of attack.

Again that sounds great on paper, but we all now how dangerous automatic weapons can be in the wrong hands, right? The mission is data value and everyone is being issued with combat fatigues, some powerful weapons and a set of field provisions.

Now then, who brought the map and is the safety catch on?

What do you think?

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