Category Archives: Data Culture

Can reporting influence the cooperative vs. competitive culture in organizations?

I’m continually amazed when I hear about the importance of building cooperative culture and what I can mostly see is still reinforcement of a competitive one.

New trends across all industries are putting more stress on promoting employees’ team-player characteristics and glueing the teams for better outcomes. There are many talks inside and outside companies about building such an attitude. The shift in mindset is mainly required on the leadership level where change can be driven and cascade to the rest parts of the organization.

Why leaders should care more about cooperative culture?

The aggressive competitive culture for many years was recognized for delivering overperformance results, but the question is it in fact true? Why promoting individuals over entire teams is the better strategy for the company? Most companies have common goals and vision, and they strive to make any single employee shares those principles. Does it not sound like one huge team of people who must collaborate to achieve one goal? So why do managers on lower levels often act differently and throw people into competitive situations?

Once, one of the managers told me that employees like to compete and this is how they are driven to be better at work, but I remember that team mostly as frustrated and surly people. Of course, we hold the competitiveness in our nature. We compete with our peers for better jobs or with co-workers for a rise or promotion. But looking from a helicopter view, I am questioning its positive impact from the company’s growth perspective. To illustrate this, imagine a soccer team. You can have one or two spectacular stars, but you need eleven players to win a game. Even those two superstars will not win a game for you. You need the effort from the rest of the group. What is more, your team is just as strong as the weakest player. And here we are touching on the pros of a cooperative attitude.

What makes cooperation better than the competition?

I worked in many industries and companies with different cultures, and I can honestly admit that the more stress was put on collaboration, the better memories I have about the atmosphere and delivered results. Of course, some people may raise their voices that if you did not track individuals’ progress, people would be tempted to cheat and not put in as much effort as they could. But my point is not against tracking individuals’ progress for people management purposes, just not presenting those statistics to the team.

Learning from others

The undoubted advantage of a strong collaboration approach is the overall greater capability of the whole team as a group due to sharing between them best practices. To translate for the business purpose an old proverb that says you need an entire village to raise a child, people can learn from other experiences and discuss with colleagues how to approach problematic clients. They can even participate together in meetings with clients just to observe the behaviours and responses of more experienced colleagues. Learning on the job has been proven to be the fastest way for people to acquire new skills or master existing ones. Sharing knowledge would be beneficial for all, younger and more senior members, while younger can exchange their energy and fresh look on things with balanced manners of seniors.

Supportive environment

Many times, private life interrupts professional. You can be accidentally sick just before closing a deal with your key client, or you immediately must be on the second end of the country to help your parents with their health problems. As we are all humans and most of our business partners will understand the situation, in consequence, the business processes will be on hold. Would not you feel much calmer knowing that in your absence your cases are moved forward, and customers are still pleased? And what about solving problems? How to leverage brainstorming sessions if people have in the back of their heads that they should not reveal their best ideas? To maximize outcomes you need to build trust. Trust will not grow in a competitive environment.

Business continuity

Both above-mentioned potential advantages are crucial to ensure business continuity. Just think how the image of your company would suffer in the eyes of your customer if you can not replace smoothly the employee who suddenly got sick for a longer time.  As a manager, one of your goals is to mitigate risks and make sure that all your processes are covered and fully operated. Having a group of people with similar skills and knowledge is a guarantee of stability from the company’s point of view.

What role does the reporting play here?

The reporting reflects vision, strategy, expectations, and corporate aspiration or at least should. If your reports do not provide supportive information to drive a business, it literally sucks, and you should do homework on how to force your data to work for you. However, before you leverage data, you must think about what message you would like to convey.

I’m always emphasising that by having the same data set you can tell several different stories and draw other conclusions. The factor here is a perspective and an end goal. The management must ask themselves if they would like to support a culture that creates stars that can shine very brightly but for a relatively short period or prefer to invest in a team which takes part in relay-race and win together.

To depict how we can promote cooperative or competitive culture by reporting tool let us compare the two below sketches (BTW, sketching is a great tool when you are working with clients, but it is a good topic for the next post).

More competitive dashboard

  • Design the dashboard for a sake of the possibility to compare team members’ performance.
  • Create an overall ranking where you can present the undisputed leader of the race.
  • Colour laggards in red or orange to emphasize them even more.
  • Keep records daily to present the progress and gaps of each team member to the leader. You can even present the historical dynamics of the race.
  • Display dashboard on a wall screen.
  • Keep a record of the best performers from previous months on the Wall of Glory.

More cooperative dashboard

  • Forget about individual performance. Focus on the Team performance.
  • You can use natural competition drivers toward other groups like teams from the same department but serving other markets, teams from different departments or if you have an opportunity towards your market competitors. Show them a common “enemy” to reinforce them as a group.
  • Show the team’s current progress in comparison to goals or targets.
  • Highlight “good news” like positive growth of KPIs or faster pace of attaining the target.
  • Display the daily progress to emphasise and award daily work.
  • If your company culture is promoting giving KUDOS present them on the dashboard. That great recognition from peers for someone’s hard work shouldn’t be unnoticed.

I have only scratched a surface of the topic, but whatever approach is closer to your HR strategy remember that how you use, and display data will amplify some underlying behaviours and attitudes.  For organizations that aspirate to be data-driven, there is no escape from thinking about data at a strategic level and using them to serve specific purposes.

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Make more impact by empowering your one-to-one meetings with data.

COVID-19 was a game changer regarding our ways of working. Many companies were forced to change a typical on-site work style for remote work. That shift had pros and cons like everything does. On the pros surveys reveal better work-life balance, commuting time savings, or performance increase. On the other hand, managers notice risks in a higher rate of employees leaving. One of the biggest cons of remote work is that employees lose attachment with the company. The main reason is a lack of social interaction with peers and involvement in creating specific organisational culture. But the second is weak identification with the brand that often relates to the office and office events. Managers are brainstorming how to bring back people again to the offices and gain their loyalty, but in the post-pandemic world, it is not so obvious how to achieve it. Rules changed and nothing remains the same as it was.

I believe that everyone needs to feel purpose in life and feel that his work is meaningful. For me understanding how I contribute to the overall strategy, goals or company’s vision is essential. Many times, we lack those connections because of poor communication from the management side and a vague understanding of our role in the entire organization. Fortunately, we have a bunch of communication tools that can be used to improve mutual understanding and keep employees satisfied with their positions.

One of those I find helpful is one-to-one conversations. The one-to-one conversation has great potential in tracking performance, and most of the time they are only used for that. But what is much more important is having a deep and honest discussion with employees about their thoughts, sentiments, and aspirations. That knowledge gives managers the opportunity to react fast when a loss in interest is observed. However, be honest with yourself, how often do you have a feeling that your one-to-ones are not effective as they could be? What are they still missing?

From my long record, I rarely recall that those discussions were supported by some good information. In the majority, discussions were driven by opinions rather than facts. Wouldn’t be great to have evidence for our gut feelings? That precious time is too often wasted simply because companies don’t provide adequate tools to make those meetings more valuable and beneficial for organisations, managers, and employees. Writing “tools”, means collecting, analysing, transforming, and presenting relevant data to make sure that people are talking about facts, and not opinions. And yes, nothing stands in the way to use data for one-to-one meetings.

Of course, the selection of data and KPIs will differ across industries, businesses, and roles. However, some of those remain the same. The biggest challenge is asking the right questions and finding data that respond to them. The great starting point in the journey of creating KPIs that give you meaningful data-based one-to-one conversations are:

  1. Company strategy & goals,
  2. And the job description.

Company strategy &goals

As I wrote above, people like to feel purpose and connection. Why not use a narrative from the big picture down to the bottom and show employees how does he or she participate in the company’s growth? The more tangible connections between the employee’s daily work and the company’s performance you can find, the higher satisfaction the employee can have. Most organizations cascade down their goals. Thanks to that, we can simply provide proper KPIs and data visualizations to present departments, teams, or individuals’ contributions.

So, before the next one-to-one, if you do not do it already, would be good to talk with the business intelligence team, the sales team, or the finance team to get some shareable data about the business growth and current progress toward goals and the contribution share of your team.

Job description

The job description includes all expectations toward a specific role that can be converted into questions tracked by data. Typically, the job description has two parts that we can use for our purpose. First are responsibilities, second qualifications and skills. Responsibilities can shape our questions about current performance toward goals, finding challenges and their proper solutions or give us a clue on how to prioritise hot issues. Qualifications and skills are a great introduction to talk about employee directions of development, their ambitions and future career paths.

Business case

As a business case, I’ll use the Product Owner role. Depending on the industry’s and an organization’s characteristics main responsibilities, qualifications and skills can differ. However, for the purpose of this post, I’m picking those:

  • Develops, owns, and executes product roadmap.
  • Prioritizes and maintains the sprint backlog for assigned products, balancing the requirements of stakeholders.
  • Translates product roadmap features into well-defined product requirements including features, user stories, and acceptance test criteria.

Expectations reflected in data

The product roadmap is one of the key drivers of success in delivering products. Without a strong and clear vision of what the product is and which characteristics and functionalities it has, it would be hard to develop anything. As a Product Owner, you should often review and update the roadmap to make sure that the vision of the product still reflects the market demands. On the other hand, the product roadmap is a base for the product backlog that consists of features or /and user stories that workload estimation gives the Product Owner a feeling about timely delivery. So, what kind of KPIs should we track to make sure that the roadmap is still valid?

Do all milestones are on the product roadmap?

The product roadmap usually includes milestones or bigger chunks that are broken down into smaller pieces like features and user stories. Tracking something that is not visible is a complicated task. Having one big picture of what is planned gives you the opportunity for proactive conversation. Having the possibility to see all relevant tasks for each milestone makes you ensure that you didn’t forget anything highly important.

Does the product backlog cover the product roadmap?

The first measure that could be interesting to track is the number of tasks under each milestone. The alert could be set up for those milestones without any created tasks. If you have the possibility to track the progress of the task, it gives you a feeling that pace of work is aligned with assumptions or is it faster or slower. You can then discuss options.

Do we have enough resources to deliver the agreed functionalities on time?

Time and money are always tied together. Looking at the roadmap we need to guess somehow the amount of work that is needed for development. For that, we can use story points, or man-days, or any other measure that allows us to compare team capabilities with the required workload. As a result, we can have a positive or negative gap. We wouldn’t trouble ourselves too much as long as we had a positive gap, but the questions would arise with a negative one. Should we narrow the scope or maybe find other people to help us?

Do features/user stories well-prepared for developers?

This question can reveal if tasks for developers are ready for development, or if some issues must be clarified still. We can use here RAG (Red for not ready, Amber for those in progress, Green for those that are ready) approach that gives us the status of tasks’ readiness. This status review opens a discussion about issues and challenges on a very low level that in the end can have a tremendous effect on the entire product development. To create RAG status, think about the most important entries, or fields on your feature/user story template. Then you can use a simple sum or a weighted one to calculate the indicator. Add conditions to differentiate between red, amber, and green (or not ready, in progress, ready). Now you have KPI to see which task needs more of your attention or has some issues to address.

To track these data, you do not even need fancy tools. The Excel spreadsheet will work perfectly. Of course, if you have the possibility to use more advanced business intelligence tools, please do not hesitate 😊

Addressing aspirations and ambitions

Most people I have known have their own aspirations and desires regarding professional and private life. Most of them if they cannot fulfil them in the current workplace are starting to look around for more favourable conditions. That is why the manager should remember to leave enough space for one-to-one conversations for discussing topics regarding employee growth. But again, the discussion is an exchange of opinions. Can we find some data to visualise how much time and effort is spent on learning and mastering skills activities?

More and more companies offer their employees learning platforms just to name a few Udemy, Coursera, and EDX. They are perceived as tremendous benefits by employees but only when they are allowed to allocate some time for learning. In the interest of any organization should be staff development. It has so many positive aspects for both sides, the employer, and the employees. I have an experience among organizations which had entirely different approaches to peoples’ growth. Some of them didn’t care at all about these needs, some of them gave the opportunity to learn but after working hours, some of them understood it as an investment and some of them required upskilling but without providing any courses or giving room for learning. But it totally different topic.

My point is that if you have such platforms in your organizations, maybe you can leverage them for:

  • Verify together with your subordinate which courses would be relevant for mastering skills required in her/his position,
  • Prepare together learning path,
  • Agree on timelines,
  • Allocate time per day/week/month for learning.

Most learning platforms share data or even provide built-in reports about users’ activity like a list of chosen training, amount of time spent in the application and on training, or progress on lecturer or practical activities. Isn’t it a great mine of information? Armed with such knowledge we can bring to the table tangible insights and have a proper conversation about employee growth. What we can definitely review in the first place is whether a person has the opportunity to use the dedicated time for learning or is snowed under with daily tasks. Or the exact opposite if you are sure that a person is not overloaded with work why she or he doesn’t take classes as is agreed? Another point for discussion can be reviewing new learnings and figuring out how this fresh knowledge can be applied to business, or if the subject is still relevant or should be changed. As you can see having those data we can start even think more strategically about the development of teams, departments, and entire organizations.

The above examples are only a small sample of enriching one of the processes within the organization. The huge challenge in making organizations data-driven is to design relative key performance indicators and create a habit of using them unconsciously by people. The main strategy to achieve that is simply to weave data into almost every process. The result can be that employees won’t think about data as something separately but as an integral step for achieving their goals. Establishing that common culture in the organization will support gaining market advantage like never before.

The doom of pre-defined dashboards. True or false?

A few days ago, I read an article1 about trends for 2022 in data analytics. One of the opinions paid my attention more than the rest. The thesis was that in 2022 we can observe “the death of predefined dashboards” which sounds odd to me.

Maybe it is only some kind of over-interpretation of what is happening in the industries and an attempt to call it controversially. Nevertheless, decision-makers can take it for granted and start a revolution in organisations harming analytical processes, workflows and widely understood data culture.

Let me touch more deeply on why I bare such an opinion.

The case with data literacy

I would love to see legions of employees who are able to read, interpret and work with data fluently at every level of the company’s hierarchy. But we are not there yet, as all surveys of all consulting companies show us.

For years we have been observing how companies have been putting a large focus on data democratization. The main evidence of that is an evolution towards a data-as-a-service direction by using cloud-based solutions to empower different users in data analytics. However, most of that significant potential can be easily lost just because of the immaturity of the organization’s data culture and the data literacy level of each, single employee.

Frankly speaking, too much focus is on the technology side and too less on people. Companies still mainly invest in training improving technical skills or ability to use specific tools.  Training which teaches how to use data for a specific purpose is in minority, even on the market is hard to find such offers. We must remember that employees have different backgrounds and different skills. Some of them would always need assistance in data analytics, just because their core skills are allocated somewhere else and there, they bring business value. We shouldn’t require them to waste their time learning how to work with data, while they should master other skills.

Challenge with an approach data as a product

The next point to cover is how those organisations are advanced in digital transformation. Before introducing a new strategy, some basics must be prepared. Many companies would like to be data-driven, however still suffer from a lack of integrated, automated, and accessible databases that provide high-quality data. And it is not a completed wish list.

Efficient and business valuable data sets serve specific business areas. In most cases, it means that different business areas have data prepared differently including data aggregation, hierarchy, and perspectives. The huge challenge for organizations is to provide an environment, structure, and infrastructure to approach data as a product. It requires investment in hiring an adequate number of professionals and changes in existing processes and technology. Apart from that, DaaP is still a fresh concept and companies need time to get familiar with it and step in on this journey.

Underdevelopment of tech-savvy

I’m writing above about too much focusing on tech training. However, some companies don’t have any vision of how to support their employees in their tech-savvy journey while still expecting results.

I was the victim of such an approach gaining access to the tools without any training and vision of employee development and setting a clear learning path. Worse, I was required to figure out how to upskill myself. That was a horrible experience, both for the employee and the organization that ends up in frustration and lack of results.

Mature organizations employ professionals who take care of the technological development of employees in accordance with the company’s long-term strategy and vision. They make sure that the skill set of employees can shift the company from point A to point B. Without them or similar roles, no major changes can take place.

The hell of multi-sources of truth

If you are a fan of Marvel like me, you know what chaos can be brought by having multi universes. The same risk can be a case when we allow separate business units to use databases without supervision. Business units may report the same metrics differently only because they understand or define them differently. From the inside, we can observe that data retrieval is processed in a different manner.

This generates a bunch of problems. Especially in proofing whose numbers are correct ones, and this requires additional time and resources that could be spent on more valuable tasks. Not to mention ruining trust and mutual relations between departments and employees.

As a key conclusion, I would say that giving employees the freedom to create their own dashboard places a huge responsibility on their shoulders and requires them to have various sets of technical skills. Such a strategy may be similar to throwing the baby out with the bathwater if companies do not invest time and money in ensuring that their employees acquire the skills they need, are equipped with the right tools and data sets can be used without worrying about the disinformation.

  1. https://www.geeksforgeeks.org/top-10-data-analytics-trends-for-2022/

Develop these four skills to be more successful in any domain.

It is a chilly morning. I stand in the middle of the kitchen and look at my lovely daughter after our regular morning battle to get her ready for school. Apart from all rage that she carries right now inside, she is like a delicate flower torn by the wind. I ask myself where is the point to force her to get up so early and expose her to all these frustrations that will come for sure today when she tries to remember all useless knowledge. The Polish education system sucks.

My daughter, as the next generation of humans, will face many new challenges in the near future. Climate crises, energy crises, increasing inequality, overpopulation, the collapse of democratic rules … just to name a few. The current education system does not prepare our children for any of the challenges of the 21st century.

Experts agree that for our kids to be able to adapt to the new environment and face what the future will bring, they must master four basic human skills. They are called 4C’s for the 21st century: Critical Thinking, Collaboration, Communication, Creativity. And what is more! According to the experts’, 4C’s are the cornerstone skills learners of all ages need to be successful in life[1].

What the hell, do these 4C’s have in common with data storytelling?! You would ask. Well, I got an idea for this post asking myself how can I support my daughter in developing 4C’s. Then I asked myself if I was using 4C’s and how beneficial it would be.

4C’s for Future, 4C’s for Today

If you’re wondering where the future starts, the simple answer is today. It doesn’t matter how old are you and what challenges you face in your daily life; these four skills definitely help you achieve more in less time.

Critical Thinking – foremostly

In the past century, people have struggled with collecting and obtaining data for their studies. We are now reaching the point where anyone with access to the web has access to a large amount of data and can do their own analysis. Data democratization, like everything else, has two sides of a coin. Unfortunately, the dark side of the common usage of data is to mislead people and create fake insights.

I love the TV series “Ancient Aliens” but the level at which they treat and interpret scientific facts is very innovative – gently speaking. For me, it is a piece of good entertainment, but we can imagine how that trivial approach to science and what is worse mass-broadcasting this approach, can implicate damage in some people understanding of ancient history without questioning that “revealed truth”.

Critical thinking has its roots in curiosity. Before you judge or draw a conclusion based on information, you should dig deeper to make sure that your conclusion is not skewed by shallow analysis or dubious data. Similarly, to “Ancient Aliens” you can create the most breath-taking story about your discoveries, but where is a meaningful value from this fairy tale?

Critical thinking is a habit of questioning others and yourself and the good news is that everyone can learn it. To develop this habit:

1.Ask the right questions and validate your own logic.

“There are no stupid questions!”. I hope that you’ve heard that many times. If you haven’t – change organization! Asking questions is the simplest and the best way to verify your or others reasoning. Use the below questions to warm up your critical thinking:
“Where data came from? Do I trust data sources?”
“What is data quality? Are there any missing entries?”
“Does the data sample is big enough? Does it present only a small part of the bigger picture?”
“Do all factors are included in the analysis?”
“What business questions does this analysis cover?”
“Do I not overcomplicate things?”

2. Deal with your (or others) biases. Remember we too often look for evidence that supports our prior beliefs.

All of us have some kind of the burden of biases. It strongly affects how our brain interprets information and draws conclusions. Studies show that we have a natural tendency for ensuring that we already believe. That tendency can be very harmful to the recommendations which we provide. To understand better how our biases play tricks on us read the book “Mindware. Tools for smart thinking” Richard E. Nisbett.

3. Take time to evaluate the topic from different sides and seek diversity.

Most of the time we are in rush and that hurt our reasoning and the quality of work we deliver. So, hold your horses and invest time in finding out other people opinions. One question about “What causes revenue decline” can have multiple answers depending on the point of view. These points of view can be very valuable and let you create a story with a wider spectrum.

Collaboration

The self-made man is a myth. No one is one hundred percent accountable for his/her success or failure. We are the result of many factors like genetics heritage, family relations, culture constraints, environmental influences, and life experiences. All together constantly have a huge impact on how we perceive ourselves and make sense of what surrounds us.

Have you read a biography of Bill Gates? Bill Gates maybe wouldn’t be so successful in his field without a few coincidences like exposure to the computers in the earlies ’70s as a teenager (what kid had that opportunity!) and mother who served in IBM board and helped in securing his first big deal with IBM. Of course, he used those opportunities very well, but would he have been the same Bill Gates without those chances?

We as humans operate in tribes. Without other members, we wouldn’t survive. If you want to be successful in your life collaborate with other people and leverage their skills and knowledge, especially because domain specialization is so deep that it is hard to be a Leonardo da Vinci in the 21st century.

Some people find it easier to collaborate with others, others find it harder. And again, self-discipline and practice can help you develop habits:

1. Invite subject matter experts to discuss and review your data, analysis outcomes, recommendations. They can bring a new fresh outlook to the table and create together with you more valuable insights.

2. Ask other analysts how they would approach the analysis of particular datasets. Maybe they did something similar in the past and you can save plenty of time.

3. Gather as much information as possible from stakeholders to focus on what matters for them instead of waist time on general questions and findings.

Communication

No other animal has developed communication skills like humans. We wouldn’t be able to conquest the whole planet without that one unique skill. Due to that skill, we can build strong relationships inside our tribe and with other tribes, convey abstract ideas and pass on incredible stories about faraway lands.

Good communication starts with a good strategy. How many times have you failed to convince others even though you have done an excellent analysis and prepared actionable recommendations? Your message didn’t get through because it wasn’t appealing to them. Consider the below points and tailor your message to be more impactful with your audience:

  1. Ask yourself what are the main pain points for your audience?
  2. Are they data literal and how advanced?
  3. Are they subject matter experts or do they need more introduction?
  4. What can they expect from you? Raw analysis with insights or clear guidelines and scenarios with recommendations?

Creativity

I’m not a fan of getting too creative in the visual representation of data. Data visualization is already an abstract form and making it more complicated by adding non-intuitive graphic shapes does not make it better.
However, using creativity to look at a problem from a new perspective and consider new possibilities is a direction every data storyteller should take. Most of the time we stay within our standard thoughts or typical suspects. This leads us in the long run to

However, using creativity to look at a problem from a new perspective and consider new possibilities is a direction every data storyteller should take. Most of the time we stay within our standard thoughts or typical suspects. This leads us in the long run to intellectual castration, which has several serious consequences, such as missed opportunities for the organization, unrecognized in time threats, and a retreat in development.
Creativity is again a skill that can be acquired and mastered. Experts recommend the following exercises to strengthen it:

1. Learn from others and surround with inspiration
The more you collaborate with others, read a lot, and learn new things, the more creative you are. You need to have enough information gathered to connect the dots and then new ideas start appearing.

2. Enjoy what you do
Doing things with passion produces unexpected outcomes. You need to be truly dedicated to your work to be able to find new solutions or patterns. If you do not like what you do, you are not involved and interested, do not expect from yourself outstanding performance. Maybe it is high time to change profession?

3. Find time to do nothing
Give your brain a break. My best ideas show up mostly when I do something different like taking shower, doing exercises, drawing, or reading. When you feel overwhelmed, simply switch your activity, and focus on something else. Your brain anyway still processing that idea in the background and doing the magic.

4. Walk
Stanford study has shown that walking improves creativity. So, when you have a problem, simply take a dog for a walk. Many CEOs already have introduced walking meetings within their organizations to increase people ability to think out of the box.

5. Hypothesize
One of my co-workers taught me a great technique. It is a simple question to ask, “What would have to happen to achieve XYZ”. That simple technique removes any barriers from our brains and shifts from concentrating on constraints, what we naturally do, to focusing on possibilities.

[1]Partnership for 21st Century Skills. http://www.p21.org/




Mind the Gap! – How visualizing missing data influences people’s trust in data quality and affects decision-making processes.

The ethical approach to data visualization has many faces. One of them is dealing with missing data and the way of communicating them to the audience. In the real world, we face situations that our databases are incomplete.  This is a common case of many reasons. Some are technical errors that can occur during ETL processes, others appear when data is collected manually, especially as a result of surveys, as people often fail to answer all questions.

Statistical procedures often eliminate entire records when only one variable is missing. This leads to a dramatic shortage of statistical samples. However, many times, even though our data is leaky like Swiss cheese, we have to present them and what is even worse, draw conclusions, because having 100% of data is in many cases ineffective and unrealistic in terms of costs and time.

Statistical approach

To stay honest with our audience and to present the observations or phenomenon to them in the most transparent way, we have only two options: to present gaps in the data or imputed data in place of missing data. There are several imputation methods widely used in statistics and statistic data modelling. The most common ones are:

  • Case deletion – omitting cases with incomplete data and not take them to analysis.
  • Zero-filling – imputation of value 0 for all missing data.
  • Linear interpolation – replacing missing data with estimated values.
  • Marginal means – the mean value of variable is used instead of missing one.

More explanations of the specific methods you can find here.

Nevertheless, what method we are going to use, we need to communicate to the audience about which data comes from observations and which ones are imputed. This communication should be given in voice and visual form to strengthen the message leave no room for presumptions.

Dilemma – show gaps or imputed data?

Many strategic decisions are data-driven and missing data impacts the overall understanding, interpretation and reasoning of a phenomenon if not properly addressed.

Recently I found interesting research by Hayeong Song and Danielle Albers Szafir that shed some light on how we visually communicate missing data, which has a significant influence on data quality perception and on confidence in drawing conclusions. Research emphasizes that visualizations that highlight missing data but do not break visual continuity are perceived by responders as those with higher data quality. The general conclusion is that imputation methods are better graphical choices than simply removal of information as they do not decrease perceived data quality as much that have consequences in the decision-making process. However, the very important aspect is to highlight imputed data by different shapes or colours. Another interesting graphical decision is to present imputed data as error bars. It gives our audience additional information about the likely range of values.

source

The research results in Figure 5 (b) clearly show that linear interpolation has the greatest positive impact on the perceived quality and accuracy of the data, and the visualization with data absent (Figure 4 (a)) is the lowest.

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The research was carried out for two commonly known visualization: a line chart and a bar chart. Both graphical choices gave similar outcomes.

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Conclusion

I have several books which are like a shining star that guides me through the darkness. One of them is “The Little Prince” Antoine de Saint-Exupery and quote from that book: “You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed”. I believe we should have exactly the same approach to our analyses and their graphical representations as data analysts or data storytellers.

My personal attitude towards data – ethics in data storytelling.

On September 26, 1983, in the middle of the Cold war, Russian lieutenant Stanislav Petrov was on duty at the command centre of the nuclear early-warning system. The system reported that six missiles were fired from the US toward the ZSSR. Petrov based on provided information had to decide whether the alarm was true or false and to obey or not obey orders. After countless minutes that seemed to be an eternity, Petrov judged that it was a false alarm and saved the world against third war – the nuclear for sure. Later, the investigation revealed that the system malfunctioned.

But what kind of the world could we live in now if Petrov had not considered other options of the system’s response? Having that historical event in mind, can we trust any information without a doubt?

As data analysts or data storytellers, we are like a nuclear early-warning system. We provide people with the information they need to make critical decisions and shape the future. It is a very responsible role.

Why is so hard not to lie with data?

Does it sound controversial?  I believe so. Does it sound realistic? For sure. Why do I think so? Are you confident that you know all aspects of a subject that you want to present to others? Have you considered all possible options and looked at them from all involved stakeholders’ perspectives? Are you sure that the data set time period is long enough, and data quality is high? There are more questions than answers. So, tell me which version of the truth you are holding in your visualizations?

I do not accuse anybody to mislead people on purpose. Most of the time when we prepare data analysis and data visualizations to communicate information, we have pure intentions. The case is that we hold some biases and believes, and our brain uses previous experiences, and constantly makes unconscious assumptions. All that influences our thoughts and perception.

Harmful data visualization

Let’s do the mental exercise and think together about how harmful data visualization can be. Currently, I’m reading an exciting book by one of the most recognizable authors of the information visualization domain Alberto Cairo “How charts lie”. In one of the chapters, there is a story about nationalist Dylann Roof, who killed several Afro-Americans by being influenced by some charts that presented a number of crimes vs ethnic roots. That shocked me and opened my eyes to the potential consequences of distributing misleading visual representations of data.

That warning is more for data journalists and other people who juggle with data publicly. Often to get more votes or support or to influence some kind of the audience line of thinking. However, even in the business environment, we must be cautious not to make the same mistakes, because results can be catastrophic and have a real impact on people. Nevertheless, all of us should remember that when we share any data on social media or on other web pages.  

The potential negative impact of wrongly done analysis and poor data visualizations:

  • Hundreds of people can lose their job,
  • Profitable business sector can be shut down,
  • Launch of a new product can miss the target,
  • Thousands or billions of people can be at threat because of the release of the new drug.

This vulnerability is real because people who make decisions make history. There is always a human factor in any success or failure.

Do you feel like an influencer?

Some time ago I had a lot of fun preparing and sharing data visualization. But currently, I’m not so eager to do that. I didn’t have enough confidence in the data that are available, and I don’t have enough time to dive into and understand the specific subject, make analyses and investigations.

In upcoming posts, I’ll focus on ethics from a data visualizations point of view. The first one is data range.

Data range

Insights could differ very much in case of changing data scope. Anyone who has some shares on the stock market knows that depending on the selected time range he or she can observe positive or negative trends. The same cognitive dissonance we can have presenting data within our organization. Maybe in the last two years, we achieved tremendous revenue growth, but looking at revenue from a longer perspective, it can turn out that we even got closer to the results from the financial crisis (pick your favourite one as an example, they come and go periodically).

Figure 1 depicts what kind of understanding and feeling the investor can have to look at the same data but from different ranges. The left chart can indicate that results are declining, but when we look at the right one, we can see that in the longer perspective trend is positive.

Figure 1

Of course, our narration can be built around the latest two years of growth, but we shouldn’t hide information from the bigger picture. The approach in such a case should be to display the bigger picture first – a longer period of data is displayed and then zoom in on the last two years to present factors of recent revenue growth.

Another example, which is notoriously used to present voting results, is presenting people support for particular parties but having only people who voted as the full population. When I listen to the news in the mass media, often people refer to the election results without considering the voter turnout. That narration skews reality. Let’s see the below example. Figure 2 shows the result of the latest presidential elections in Poland. What will most people remember from the chart? That Duda won and had more than 50% of public support.

Figure 2

But this is not true! The real public support for Duda was 34.49% if we consider the voter turnout. The voter turnout in this election was 68.18%. It means that 31.82% of Poles didn’t go on the election. I would love to see in the mass media charts which present the entire election results, including those who didn’t vote. Then we would have the complete picture of people’s political preferences. However, I still see truncated data scope.

Figure 3

By manipulating data range as a timeline or included/excluded categories, we tell different stories about data and evoke different understandings and feelings in our audience about the subject. Let’s remember that to not lose in translation the most objective view possible.

Why you need Change Management in successful BI products adoption. Effective implementation strategies.

I promised to prepare a post about strategies of BI product successful adoption. It is a really hard work to achieve this. Not because your company CEO is a miser, and he or she doesn’t want to give any penny more for technology or on hiring a new workforce or outside company that works for you. The true challenge is to change the way people think … and behave.

Is Excel still the main data processing tool in your company? Do people still value working with this tool, because of its simplicity? If your answers are yes, you should already feel that changing their work habits is not a piece of cake.

BI solutions are new tools that need to be adapted in your organizational structures with proper care. Introducing a new tool goes hand in hand with introducing a new process. Introducing a new process involves managing change. And that is exactly what adoption is – the change management case.

Many organizations have in their structures Change Management department that can support BI projects in better and faster implementation by leverage knowledge of change management processes and techniques. Human Resources department can be very useful as well when it comes to redesigning some people habits and behaviours. I highly recommend asking them for support in any initiatives involving the introducing any new solutions.

CHANGE MANAGEMENT

Before we delve into the subject, let me briefly explain what change management is. It is a structured approach to prepare and support the entire organization and individuals in making organizational change.

For me, the term “change journey” is more appealing than “change management”. I associate change with the human factor more than with processes because without people’s willingness any change will take place. There are several methods or frameworks to lead successful change, however, for BI products adoption I found ADKAR model appropriate.

source

A like AWARNESS of the need for change

From my experience, it is very important to start communicating about the change a long time before it happens. There is a psychological explanation behind this: people don’t like changes. They must get familiar with it, so preparation is key.

There are many channels that can be used for that purpose such as intranet, emails, workshops, and face to face meetings. The message should focus on answering why change is needed and on the benefits for each individual and the entire organization. It is important is to address any concerns or biases related to the change. (I wrote more about it here).

Ask HR department for support in this sensitive case. Involve top management as the voice of change.

D like DESIRE to participate and support the change

Although all efforts go into Awareness phase, it doesn’t mean that the results will be spectacular. The reason is that each person must make their own inner decision whether to support the change or not. Many practitioners point out that win hearts and minds is the most difficult part.

The main challenge here is how to get people to care about something they don’t care right now?

As unfaithful Tomas, most of us have to see to believe. Data platform projects are relatively long-term and for most of the time, end-users do not see results. Fortunately, we often create PoCs (proof of concepts) or prototypes to test certain assumptions. These small pieces of work can be shared to prove major concepts of a new approach. If this prototype is prepared to address one of the main company’s pain points, it would be easier to promote the new approach in the organization because of its undoubted value, which shows how this change can work for them.

K as KNOWLEDGE on how to change

This phase is associated with learning new tools and new skills. Many organizations use Excel to communicate data. Most of the time they prepare reports and send pdf files by email. Introducing a new tool like Power BI or Tableau forcing breaking old habits and behaviors and building a new one. This transition must be supported by delivering inhouse training that will bridge the gap between current knowledge and skills and desired one. In addition, all training must follow with creating an internal space where people have access to information about this new tool and have a place where they can share their experience and find answers to their questions.

Too often I observe a common scenario, that a new tool is introduced, however, staff training is not budgeted. This gives rise to a lot of frustration when people are required to provide valuable analysis, but they lack skills.

A as ABILITY to implement desired skills and behaviors

Having knowledge doesn’t mean that you know how to put it in practice. It takes time for people to develop a strong conviction that they are capable to use new tools for expected results. They won’t do it without support from the company side. Bringing in trainers or field experts who will work with them for a while can speed up learning process and smooth transition from the old to new approach. The main slogan here is practice, practice and even more practice.

R as Reinforcement to sustain the change

Have you heard about the “JoJo effect” when it comes to weight loss? It often happens that people who put a great effort into losing a few kilograms and spent several weeks or months on exhausting diet and psychical activities, very quickly regain their original weight. The reason is that they didn’t change their habits but only suspended for a while. There is even scientific proof that our brain reverts to safe, comfort and well-known practices. Therefore, maintaining the change is very demanding.

Before we are going to introduce a new approach, we must find out how the current processes are like and what people think and feel about it. Most of cases in organizations there are two or even more ways people do certain things. The first one is official procedure which can be found in organizational documents or regulations. The second one is the informal way people really work. This informal approach manifests their habits, behaviors and beliefs and is significant for us. Without revealing true processes, the new change won’t be successfully implemented due to lack of knowledge of how to implement it in such a way that people would be open to accept it.  

LESSONS LEARNED

Quick wins

You don’t have to start big. Start small.

When working with the client, we usually choose only one business area to improve. This could be sales performance, for example. Then we makeover reports, or we design them from scratch, develop and make them available as the reporting platform. This short cycle has many benefits. First of all, we can quickly verify technical aspects of the proposed solution, check with the stakeholders whether the product meets all the requirements, and what is most valuable if the product can be release to wider audience and prove its usefulness to them.

Leverage old tools

Instead of introducing rapid change as revolution, sometimes we can achieve better results by doing it in slower pace like evolution. If your employees are used to using Excel, don’t take it away from them. Most of the BI products have possibility to extract data into an Excel file. Focus in the first phase on process automation and ensuring a single source of truth. Anyway, they have to use the BI product to retrieve some data. Over time, as they trust and become familiar with the tool, they will start using it instead of extracting data from it.

Top management involvement

Recognition and a pat on the shoulder is not enough. Every change (as well as every initiative) requires fully committed top-level managers.

Several years ago, at one of my previous employers, I was involved in designing and implementing a new business intelligence tool. The goal was to provide a large number of reports covering all business aspects. The task wasn’t easy due to its complexity and data accesses challenges. Most of data were stored with IT department which didn’t want to share accesses. The first release took us almost a year (it was long before I heard about Scrum 😊). As you can imagine tremendous effort and time has been invested in delivering this tool.

This project was under company digitalization umbrella and aiming to improve the availability of information at every level of organizational hierarchy. However, most senior managers didn’t use this new platform, where they had all important information at their fingertips. They preferred the old-fashion style to send tones of emails asking for these essentials.

As you get the impression the adoption wasn’t spectacular, I would say that we missed the momentum.

There is a proverb that “the example comes from above”. I believe that if senior managers presented themselves as hard users of the platform, it would have enormous impact on the platform usage.

Ambassadors of the new approach on each level of organizational hierarchy

Apart from Top management, you need army of true believers, who will be a voice of change. These people should come from different departments and from different levels of company’s hierarchy. They should be a role model for their colleagues.

There is no better option to involve people by giving them the chance to become fathers and mothers of the initiative. Parents love their children selflessly.

You can follow the tactic of one of my clients. They formed working teams with people from different departments, who were involved in the design of a brand-new reporting platform. These people talk about their new project in the halls, canteens, and during cigarette breaks. This is a perfect example of viral marketing!

Support, support and once again support

How would you perform driving a car without hours of training and a good teacher? Likewise, your people need teachers and resources to learn and master their skills. You can leverage whatever works: on-demand or instructor-led training, online resources, community groups or newsletters with examples how to use and read data from the new BI product.

One of my clients constantly uses emails to send out extensive examples presenting usefulness of the BI product. They provide screenshots and guide others on how to use a tool, but more importantly how to analyze with the tool and create insights.

Start with day one

The last good practice that I want to present is to combine BI products into internal processes. This tactic forces people to use this tool and cut any discussion, whether they deem it relevant or not.

That tactic is for companies that really have ambitions to become a data-driven companies quickly. In such case all teams have to start workday by checking the latest data and on that basis and making decisions what they will do today to improve the performance, for example.

The great example is Daily Scrum – meeting (one of Scrum time boxes). During this event, a team relies on yesterday’s activities planning today’s activities. They use Kanban board to track data about the progress of current work.

Likewise, dashboards or reports should be used as a mandatory tool for daily stand-ups to discuss ongoing performance and set the next directions.

Embrace diversity – how to design data visualizations for people with visual impairments.

Have you ever thought that it is possible to discriminate people through data visualization design? Several years ago, it sounded strange to me too, but indeed, it can be done unconsciously if you are not aware of the topic.

Discrimination is most often associated with skin colour, gender, age, religious beliefs, or nationality. However, this negative social phenomenon can have much broader spectrum. One of them, not at all intuitive, is data visualizations practices. The topic is gaining importance as more and more data is used to explain global processes, and those with difficulties in that area are being left behind. It may not be simple, but the onus is on data community and data visualization practitioners to develop new best practices to communicate data in more democratic way with those with difficulties in this area in mind.

To make data visualization more accessible to a wider audience, three dimensions can be improved: vision, cognitive and learning difficulties, and motor capabilities. The basic, obvious difficulty is related with vision impairments; but the degree of impairment is key. I will not discuss the most severe degree, which is blindness (this is a topic for different post), but I will bring closer the subject of colour-blindness and low vision impairments.

COLOUR BLINDNESS

In data visualization, colour is the most important communication channel. The ability to see and understand the meaning of colours helped our ancestors to survive in deep jungles or on savannas. Colour informed them about non-toxic food or allowed them to spot predators in the forest.

Today, we are still sensitive to colours and these naturals reactions are used in many ways. For instance, most warning signals use red colour, because we naturally associate it with danger or action (red is a colour of the blood)[1]. Studies show that prolonged exposure to the red colour can cause the heart rate to accelerate as a result of activating the “fight or flight” instinct[2]. In opposite, blue colour has a calming effect.

However, not everyone can see colours. Approximately about 10% of human population has trouble seeing colours correctly. If you would like to deepen your knowledge about types of colour-blindness, please check the website. There you can learn about causes of colour-blindness, test yourself, and find a tool to check if prepared visualization is in line with best practices.

There are several basic principles that improve your colour palette and enable visualization for broader audience. To understand them we need to understand two important colour properties:  hue, and saturation. Hue defines colour in terms of pink, blue, yellow, or magenta. Saturation is nothing more than volume of the colour. By juggling these main properties we can improve or worsen results of our work.

RED-GREEN

First of all, stop using red-green palette which is confusing or even unrecognizable to colour-blinded people. This is my humble recommendation. For most people with colour difficulties this red and green colour look the same (see Picture 1).

Picture 1

Most modern data visualization tools, such as Tableau or Power BI already have available colour palettes that handle with the topic. Both mentioned tools have also option to create custom compositions and upload them to the application (custom colour palettes for Tableau and Power BI).

If you are wondering about the right colour palettes, check out the ones presented on Picture 2 and Picture 3. They are nice, clean, and fancy and will work for any reports.

Picture 2 – Vivid & Energetic
Picture 3 – Elegant & Sophisticated

CONFUSING COLOUR PAIRS

Even though we try to avoid the red-green colour range there are still other pairs that resulted in similar way. In recent years I have been observing the dizzying career of the grey-blue duet. I like this combination as well, however, it is essential to match them wisely (see Picture 4).

Picture 4

MONOCHROMATIC SCALE

Sometimes the best option is to simply stick with one colour and play with its saturation to differentiate specific categories or data ranges (see Picture 5). This approach can be used in most visualizations.

Picture 5

More practical colour ranges you can find here, and if you would like to test your composition on specific charts use this website.

SHAPE

Another interesting channel we can use to help visually impaired people easily distinguish between coded data is to assign shapes to different data categories. A good example of how the introduction of shapes can make difference is the well-known RAG.

RAG stands for RED-AMBER-GREEN and is widely used in business environment to communicate performances, risks or statuses of activities. It is most commonly used in project management to report status of tasks, but due to its simplicity, it is also used in data visualization to highlight for instance KPIs (key performance indicators) performance. Red indicates about underperforming, amber that something is an issue and needs to be monitored, and green that is fine.

But as you already know RED-GREEN can be very confusing for colour-blind people. So, my suggestion is to use a shape as another visual communication channel to make sure everyone is on the same page. Instead of format with coloured background, it would be better to introduce icons that have different shape and are coloured in red, amber, or green (see Picture 6).

Picture 6

But what about charts like line chart or bar chart? How can we improve distinction between specific lines or bars? We can use different patterns to distinguish one bar from the rest one or to present several lines on one chart (see Picture 7).

Picture 7

WRITTEN INSIGHTS

Written descriptions, recommendations or insights can be tricky. Especially when you want to use colour names to emphasise certain points, data categories or issues. How someone, who does not see green colour (see Picture 1) can understand a message “All departments represented by green bars have exceeded their sales targets this year”? This message must be rewritten to “Departments A,B, and C have exceeded their sales targets this year” to ensure that all stakeholders understand it.

LOW VISION

In addition to the most recognizable challenge, which is colour blindness in data visualizations design, there is another related to vision loss due to age, accidents, or genetics. For those who suffers from low vision, we must remember that size and contrast of displayed text matters. Especially when we display some materials on screens in conference rooms, but even when you present something via communicators as Teams, or Zoom, size matters. You can read more about the topic here.

SIZE

When it comes to the font size, there is no one good recommendation. It depends on the purpose. If you are going to display materials at a conference in a large conference room, it is better not to use smaller fonts than 18 when describing axes or legend and have less information on the slides. There is nothing wrong in having more readable slides rather than fewer but cluttered.

A different approach can be taken when creating reports. I would say use a font size 9 or 10 for axis or legend description, but in no other case should you go lower than 12. In reports crucial thing is to group information together or to display them in close proximity to make it easier to interpret or make decisions. That is why optimizing space is so important. These screens can always be enlarged, and anyone can take advantage of them.

Picture 8

CONTRAST

The general rule is to maintain high contrast between background and foreground (e.g. white – black, black – white). A typical accessible barrier for people with low contrast sensitivity is grey text or figures on a light background. However, for some people better combination is with lower contrast, because they suffer from the bright background (e.g. they have to change a screen background to the darker to be able read what is on the screen).

As you can see there is no single best answer how to approach this challenge. A good practice is to give people the option to change the display mode from bright (light background and dark foreground) to dark one (dark background and light foreground).

Picture 9

By these small changes, we are bringing better user experience in our organizations or widely, if we prepare data visualizations for the media or other public usage.

[1]https://rochester.edu/news/show.php?id=3856

[2] https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/2158244014525423

A confusing tram trip in Cracow – How humans read information.

It was several years ago. I was in Cracow and, I made an appointment with my friends in a nice vegetarian restaurant. I took with me my nine-year-old daughter. To get there we took a tram. My daughter was very excited about the event and, as a typical child her age, the minute we entered the tram, she started asking where we were getting off.

Fortunately, we sat down just next to an information board, where all the tram stops were displayed. So, I told her stop’s name, pointed to the board, explained to her how it works and proposed counting the stops on her own. I didn’t pay too much attention to it because Cracow is my hometown, and I knew it wasn’t far.

What a surprise it was to hear: “Mom, we’re on the 12th stop”. Knowing it cannot be right (the right number was 3rd), I asked her to count them again, but the response was the same. This situation repeated a few times till eventually she exploded and yelled at me. I swiftly considered the hypothesis that she must have been swapped in the hospital (obviously my own child would be smart enough to correctly count to 5!) and rejected it. Finally, I looked at the information board, and everything became clear. 

The culprit of this confusion was interpretation of the information board with tram stops. You see, western civilization uses the left-to-right reading pattern, so this reading order seems natural to us[1]. Linguistic and reading patterns affect reasoning of time and space, as well as relations between these two dimensions. My daughter made a subconscious assumption that the tram stops on the board were displayed in the “normal” order. Her assumption was totally right.

However, it displayed stops according to tram moving direction (right to left) but not with alignment of left to right perception of time (unexpecting design choice). Even though it consisted of a direction arrow, names of stops, and a moving ball pointing to the current stop, my daughter’s brain was still searching for the familiar left-to-right pattern.

And that is why her answer was 12th (count from the left side the stop marked with yellow circle!, but the start of the trip is on the right side)


This story is a great example how people consume information embedded in the time and how they expect it to be displayed. It’s worth remembering that, in our culture, information is read from left to right and from top to bottom. When we work on reports, dashboards or any data visuals, the human brain uses built-in patterns, helping to store information and save energy. Following this simple rule significantly improves the user experience. 

Check out my other posts about importance of the time orientation in data visualization:

[1]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3322406/

The seven common biases connected to report adoption

In this article, I will summary seven common people biases that I observe when dealing with introducing a new reporting system.

Firstly, we need to understand why there is so much resistance in embracing a new? Most people are afraid that they don’t have adequate skills to use new tools, or they won’t easily understand the content of those tools. In some cases, the root of incomprehension is a lack of comprehensive information on why a new process is introduced.

Suppose we want to carry out a successful transition from the old process to a new one. In that case, it’s crucial to understand and address the specific fears and biases of our employees and manage those emotions. Change management strategies should be built around addressing people fears, untrust and incomprehension. Not without significance is a group of employees. Those strategies must differ when you approach data people and non-data people.

But before building strategies that help overcome those challenges, let’s name them.

The issue with data literacy

Data democratisation has enormous potential to change how we work and how we think. A great example is the work of Hans Rosling, a Swedish professor, who, thanks to exposing an audience to data, was able to influence their perspective about how positively the world change during the XX century. However, he didn’t leave the audience without assistance to understand and consume the data. When we give access to data for a wide range of people, we have to remember that among the employees’ population are individuals with various disabilities like dyslexia, dyscalculia, colour blindness or any other cognitive deficits. If we do not consider and address their limitation, our ambitious plan to empower each employee with data will fall.

The technology barriers

The biggest mistake is to assume that for other people, new technology is as intuitive and easy to assimilate as for us (it is a shared conviction among some people who already use some technology). However, the reality is quite different. People do not assimilate technology at the same pace. Some of them need more time and more assistance to become familiar and feel comfortable with new tools. Employees in our organisation have different educational background, age and skills that influence the understanding of any new technology.

The fear of an incomprehension

The result of neglecting issues with data literacy and technology barriers is that people will not use the new tool. They will not build a firm conviction that they can analyse data in a meaningful way and create business insights. For those who already work with data, BI platforms can be seen as data Eldorado. However, for non-data people, the same tool can turn into a nightmare. For data people, It is obvious that we live in the data ocean, and well-prepared data can enrich any process within an organisation or in private life. But not everyone has an analytical mind, and interpretation of data can be a challenge.

The fear of being redundant

Data people often see technology as a threat to current jobs. And this bias has strong evidence in factories and back-offices. If we automated the work of three people, who had done it for 80% of their time, they can feel anxious about their role in the organisation and be reluctant to use new tools. They can even present a negative attitude to a new device or process, explaining its unreliability. However, we need to remember that automation in the BI field is a blessing because it gives employees space to release their potential. In analytics, about 80% of the time is taken on data transformation jobs. By automating this part, people can have more time to explore data and create thoughtful insights and recommendations.

In here, we have reached another bias connected with someone’s skills. Even for people who have the potential, it can be hard to switch from one role to another in a short period. The organisations that appreciate human resources’ value are willing to offer upskilling training, which prepares for new positions, often more demanding. If well-designed and well-performed, this transition can be an excellent opportunity to grow, both for organisations and individual employees. More and more data requires more and more professionals who know how to take out the best insights and communicate them. In the future will be lower demand for data analyst but higher for data storytellers. That shift will be towards a better understanding of the business environment, business constraints, and connecting all those dots into one thoughtful piece of information.

The fear of being seen

BI platforms with updated on daily basis reports give enormous performance transparency in all fields. It enables monitoring people performance more outstanding than ever before. No one will hide. The dark side of this transparency can manifest itself in increasing stress experienced in the workplace by employees. People performance reports should be carefully designed to underpin organisational culture. Depending on the competitive culture or cooperative, the approach to data narration would differ. If you care to have a solid and effective team, your latest goal is to emphasise individual performance. Numbers in such case should reflect the team capabilities and contribution of individual members but not a comparison that can lead to competition within the team. Even in a competitive culture, data narration can have a positive or negative impact. When our objective is to attain goals in the longer time lag, we will desire to evoke positive employee motivation. Positive motivation is a reward for good performance, negative – pain avoidance. A good practice is to research before developing any reports to check what data visualisations bring what emotions and how they resonate with the audience. The red colour is a good example. For instance, at one company where I worked as a consultant, employees decided that red colour on reports negatively impacted their performance and well-being. The red colour was used to emphasise the sales budget realisation, which was under the threshold and shinned in red most of the time during the month. In such a case, another option is to highlight budget realisation and compare it with timeline, or simply change perspective and communicate current goal attainment (in green or blue).

The fear of responsibility

If you are thinking about creating an organisational culture based on individual employees responsibility and engagement, there is no better way than democratise data. The idea behind data democratisation is to democratise the decision-making process as well. However, on the other hand, as a side effect, we delegate more responsibility to the employees in lower positions. Some of them are already capable and just looking forward to that chance; some would be more reluctant. Nevertheless, the essential purpose of data democratisation is to equip employees with a tool that gives them authority to impact their performance significantly and, through this, on the entire company. Another aspect worth mention is reducing micromanagement that negatively influences employees’ efficiency, self-esteem and increases frustration. Having BI tools in place, employees are welcome to use them more frequently in self-management and drive their actions.

The issue with trust

Before we release a new BI platform, we need to be 100% sure of data accuracy. As an old proverb says, it is easy to lose credibility but extremely hard to regain. Data platforms are no exception in this case. They need to have a status of a single source of truth and be irrefutable. Otherwise, the audience won’t rely on provided data and go back to old, common practice. Establish a single source of truth and one dictionary for all measures is crucial. After the release of the BI platform, all other data resources need to be withdrawn for everyday use not to mislead users and not create a parallel reporting system with alternative truth. The massive challenge in this field is to convince people. In addition, shared access to guides and other materials which easily explain how the solution works, data is prepared, and measures are calculated can help people trust the new tool.

In the next article, I will go deeper into practical strategies that are available and easy to introduce in all types of organisations. So stay tuned.