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5 things to do before starting a data project

You’re about to start a big data project. Fantastic! We’re big believers in the fact that every business can gain a real competitive advantage through analysing their data. It’s why we do what we do. 

But just before you go running off all excited, stop for a moment. If you really want your data project to be a success, you need to think about five key things before you even start. 

Understand the problem that you are trying to solve 

Chances are you’re looking to data analytics to fix a specific need, something which is causing inefficiencies and costing you money. Don’t assume though that by shaking the data tree enough times a solution will magically fall into your lap. First you need to look at your existing systems to see what exactly needs fixing. It’s only once you have a clearly defined vision and end point in mind, that we can see exactly how we can help. 

Define what success will look like  

Having identified what you want, it is time to think about what a successful outcome might look like. It helps nobody to embark on a data project without setting any specific goals or measurable outcomes. So make a plan, draw up a list of milestones, devise ways of measuring what’s happening and then track the results against that. One useful approach we’ve found is to run a user survey six months down the line and find out how people are using, or benefitting from the findings.  

Align with company strategy 

It’s all very well you dreaming up fantastic, innovative data driven projects that will change the very fabric of your business and the world generally. But it might be best, first of all, to check that your goals are something that fall in line the wider strategic direction of the business. Is this a problem you should even be solving? Is it a business priority? Will it help tick some important boxes when the annual report comes round? If the answer is yes to all the above, fantastic – you’re on your way to getting managerial buy-in and tapping up a healthy budget for an important piece of work. 

Data for the people 

You’ve addressed the needs of the bigger cheeses but don’t forget about the little guys, the people on the front line who are working hard to produce this data in the first place. Think about how this is going to benefit them in the long term, how will it make their day-to-work work easier, more efficient, or more effective? This is particularly pertinent if your business is going through a restructuring process. We’re great believers in the power of data analysis, but if you’re losing half your team it might not be perceived as the best use of company resources. 

Build the right team 

One commonly held assumption we come across is the idea that data is purely a tech led process: you identify a problem or need and the nerds crunch the numbers. It’s not that simple of course. To produce an effective outcome, you need quality input from people on the business side, members of the team who can provide insights into how the company works and what its goals and strategies are. You should bring together people who use the data in different ways and can provide the broadest possible range of experience. That way the insights we produce will be deeper, richer and ultimately more valuable. 

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