30 March 2021

The answer is in the data

I was listening to Chris Whitty, UK Chief Medical Officer, at one of the many things we have had to get used to over the last year or so - the daily COVID press briefing!

It was a tremendously humbling session as it was one year on, to the day, since the first lockdown happened in the UK and a lot of the session was dominated by those who have so tragically lost their lives during this pandemic - our hearts go out to those who have lost anyone over this time.

The session quickly turned to learnings and what could we have done better to avoid such tragic loss of life, challenging questions for sure to be asked when the world is watching!

The PM answered first, but didn’t address the question as direct as Chris who said that one of the learnings was that we didn’t have access to sufficient data quick enough and if we had, then more lives would have been saved.

I was really struck by that! It made me reflect on what a powerful force, arguably the most powerful force, data has become in the modern world!

And of course it has, we are fast approaching living in a world where we have 20 zettabytes of data - that’s a lot isn’t it? It’s in fact more than that, it’s colossal, roughly equating to digitising every human word ever spoken... just consider that for a moment!

It touches every aspect of life, the products and services we use are powered by it, our career success is measured by it and our government policies that shape how we live are grounded within it.

Working as a consultant with NW/A has offered me the opportunity to talk with many CEOs about data and how they use it in the business, and frequently the question I get asked his ‘how do I empower teams and enable them to be accountable for growth using data?'.

There are so many ways to answer that question and where conversations tend to turn with CEOs, and I can imagine this was exactly the same in the COVID task force rooms, is you have to work out what really matters in all of this information and target those variables that make a difference to the outcomes the business is striving for.

That sounds straightforward, and I guess common sense, but with so much information in the world today it can become very easy to get lost in a business’ sea of data and before you know it, time is being channelled into solving for variables that matter less than you may have originally thought.

So defining the business or the objective goals and how they will be measured is key, this effectively defines the north-star that everything else has to accrue towards. When that has been done, the rest will flow, and across the business there will normally be between 20-30 inputs / variables / or KPIs that really matter in driving those goals. Once that all becomes clear, the team can own those goals and be empowered to execute - it’s owning and executing against these inputs that always drive the outcomes!

Thinking about how that relates back to the start of this blog and the overall approach to COVID, you can see similarities. The goal has clearly been to bring COVID to a level that is manageable in the UK (which they emphasised during the press conference and is very different to a goal of eradication) and from that, a number of key variables are tracked and reviewed every day, which signpost us to progress being made against the goal. That may be vaccination data, testing data, hospital admission or quarantine data, but ultimately these are all the inputs to be measured to achieve the overall outcome of getting back to normality in the UK.

If you would like to take up our offer for a free business HealthCheck, where we can analyse every aspect of your business, including the quality of your data, please get in touch.

Stay safe out there everyone!

#Data delights customers !
#Data grows businesses !!
#Data saves lives !!!