Data don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing
By Anton Bubberman
In addition to my work as a management consultant, I recently started as Guild lead Data at Anderson MacGyver. Data is a subject I could talk about for hours, but in this blog, I like to combine it with another passion. I love making music. Sometimes I do it alone, but preferably with others. From acoustically accompanying a singer-songwriter to playing bass or guitar in a big band. And everything in between.
You won’t get far in a band without structure and agreements. You have to understand what you have to do, what the division of roles is, who your audience is, and what to bring to a performance. There is a nice parallel to be drawn with organizations that want to get more value from their data. It is always an interplay and it is necessary to be clear about the goals, the division of roles, and what you need, technical or otherwise, to achieve them. Everyone on the same page? Fine! But it takes more than that to make it swing.
The same language
As a musician, you can know everything about the way sounds are created physiologically and what is pleasing to the ear or not. Yet we do not usually speak in vibration frequencies, overtones, and other scientifically explainable concepts. Musicians do have their own idiom: pitch, chord progressions, rhythm, and feel are the means of communication to achieve a result together. Listeners do not need to know this jargon. They are perfectly capable of naming whether the music touches them or gives them a feeling of dancing. I dare say the listener will notice if the band is mismatched in any of the aforementioned aspects.
Data management gurus can often spend hours talking about academic concepts around data. On the shop floor, it is especially important that we understand the complexity, but create a common and especially practical language that everyone involved understands. How do we define data quality, what integration agreements do we make with each other and what is the “golden record”? This allows us to act together and deliver value to users. Above all, users of dashboards and reports want their report to work. Like listeners of music, they often know nothing about the agreed-upon language, but flawlessly sense when something is wrong in that area.
Foundation for improvisation
The analogy goes even further. When a foundation is in place and rhythm is built together, it becomes a lot easier to improvise. Is a song coming across well with the audience? Then it can be extended spontaneously, with an extra solo. Or the music is stopped for a moment, so the audience can clap and sing along loudly. Does it appear during the performance that more energy is needed or just a moment of rest? Then we play something else. This requires a good foundation and trust.
Extending this to data: based on a good foundation, you can switch very quickly when necessary. For example, a marketing department is already successfully using algorithms to target potential customers personally through online campaigns. The right data is available, the quality is under control, it is clear what is legally allowed, the right technical instruments (tools) are available and the team knows how to use them. This also leaves room for improvisation. If new trends or opportunities are spotted, it is possible to combine the available data in a different way, slightly extend the algorithm, and thereby easily set up new campaigns.
Let’s see if we can develop a common language for your organization: with a rhythm and feel that fits your possibilities, wishes, and context. With the right frames for jamming – strict enough to really get things swinging.