I’m Adrian Mitchell, Co-Founder Brijjo, a project management tool built for data and analytics teams.
As a ‘hands-on’ data leader, it can be easy to forget that your job is not to manage data, but to manage people. I’ve learned this lesson many times, and one example was the catalyst for starting Brij.
While leading the BI department of a UK property business, I had a young enthusiastic team. And none more so than Jesse. A visualization specialist, Jesse was new to her role, eager to learn and make an impact.
It is a pleasure to lead such people as the data is always changing. New tools and techniques come out every day, so if you don’t learn, you’ll stagnate. And if you don’t influence and effect change, no single dashboard or model will be worth the effort.
After months of high motivation, I began to notice that Jesse’s morale was falling. I planned to contact him about this at his next catch-up, but he decided to approach me with the root of his problem before he arrived.
The conversation was lengthy but it can be summarized in three main points.
“I don’t feel like my work is being used.”
“My work doesn’t matter.”
This was hard to hear as Jesse’s leader because it meant that despite my efforts, I would fail him. I knew his work was of high quality. I knew she always met requirements, always met exclusivity. I also knew that our internal customers rated Jesse, and I was sure to let him know at every opportunity.
But despite such positive feedback, Jessie didn’t feel like she was making an impact.
This is something that I have realized in my career. This is seen in junior employees who have the idea that every analysis they make should change the world. This is seen in a tired senior professional who gives work and tends to shrink when not in use.
This is a multidimensional problem.
- High quality data work that is not used by the business.
- Low quality work that the business cannot use.
- High quality work used by the business, but it is hard to trace how it has been used. It risks the impression that nothing is being done.
It is difficult to prove value in data and analytics. It is ironic that the discipline devoted to quantifying everything struggles to determine itself. But this is true. The output we create often does not have an intrinsic independent value. They need to do something to others in order to have value.
how not to be useless
If the marketing manager doesn’t use your research to improve the top of the funnel… it’s useless.
If the sales director doesn’t use your dashboard to make decisions that increase sales… it’s useless.
If the head of operations doesn’t use your report to reduce costs… then it’s worthless.
It may be controversial, but we believe that data is the discipline where organizations see the most wasted effort. And it’s coming from someone who has dedicated his career to it. It’s a tragedy because the effort is often worth something. It’s high quality, but it’s not being used. High quality, low usage.
Our research suggests that this may be behind the statistics that 80% of data projects fail. I hate this state. But I understand it.
I hate it because I know from my experience that if my team fails to meet the specification 80% of the time… we will be out of job. Most of the time, we deliver.
Although I understand it, because at the same time, can I say that most of our work is used to its full potential? No I can’t.
And that’s the core of what Jesse understood. Her career is about to be great as she understands that reaching the imagination “doesn’t matter.” Effect matters.
I don’t believe most data projects “fail”. I believe most data projects don’t make enough impact…or we can’t prove the impact they did.
Adding data users to solve the problem
So how do we solve this problem? We build a bridge between those who create data and those who use it, because “success” depends on it.
But crucially, we do it in a way that acknowledges the reality of how data professionals solve problems.
Data creators cannot build critical insights without projects that have business consequences at the core of the project. Data consumers define business results.
Data creators cannot deliver a project without sufficient domain knowledge. Data consumers have knowledge of this domain.
Data makers cannot prove their effectiveness without ascertaining what has been achieved. Data consumers enact change.
These are fundamental human-centered problems that depend on the relationship between people. Nevertheless, data professionals focus on technical solutions to problems. They think they need a better ETL tool, a better BI implementation. But they are often wrong.
They need better human relations; To understand business. They need to guide others to create value together and enable real change.
This is the difference between data creators and data consumers that we should close. We need to build a bridge.
A project management tool built for data
And so we’ve made it Brijjo. The solution is the need to help data professionals solve the human problems they face through technology.
It is a project management platform that manages every phase of a data project. But in a way that keeps the relationship between data creators and consumers alive. So together they form better insights, much faster. Their insight is more likely to be used, less likely to “fail”, and so you can prove your worth.
For our entire career, we have been talking about the potential for data, analytics and insights. It’s our contribution to helping people like Jesse never feel inferior again. So they can realize this potential for all of us.