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A journey into data-led management

Everybody is talking about data. Where to store it, how best to capture it and in particular how to leverage it, for better market performance and future growth both in Bermuda and overseas.

Executive management are hungry to be correctly informed. They need to make eyes-open decisions, based on facts, knowing that if they decide to lead their respective company down a particular path, then it will be the right one.

The benefits of a data-led management approach can touch every strategic and operational aspect of a company. Let's give it an acronym: DLM as we will call it enables objective decision making — the opportunity to collaborate on decision making and an increased ability to set and manage stakeholder expectations with greater accuracy.

DLM also identifies patterns that suggest that things are going awry before they would, or could, have previously been highlighted.

Putting the board in the driving seat

In short, DLM, approached and managed properly, puts boards and senior management squarely in the “factual driving seat”, in control of their businesses.

And the desire for meaningful DLM is not new. What is new is the recognition of just how powerful the right data is to a business. Back in 2006, while I was working for a Bermudian-based insurance company, I started to explore how data could be used and how I might be able to apply this information into my management style and decision-making approach.

I wanted to be able to combine empirical evidence with experience. I started by identifying and utilising available data, and the points at which it could be collected, in a low cost (or ideally free) way. The objective here was most certainly not to increase timelines as a result of data collection, so where possible the information collection would be automated.

Deriving unexpected and surprising correlations

Interestingly, not all of the data collected was immediately useful. Some of it initially was easy to gather, but has over time become useful, and showed unexpected and surprising correlations. Information is power, as long as it is ‘good and solid' rather than ‘rubbish in, rubbish out'.

So how might Bermuda's executives go about developing a workable DLM approach?

The following CHIMES approach will get you started:

Commit: this won't be a short journey. Make sure it's something that you really want to do.

Harness: identify an area that you can use as a starting point (this could be something vertical you are responsible for, or a particular part of your role).

Improve fast: choose an area in need of improvement if it is important that you have some quick wins.

Management: identify and manage the data that you already have, what does it tell you?

External sources: Identify what other data you can collect easily and cheaply (ideally free), or that you can obtain from outside the business.

Select wisely, iterate and improve upon what you have gathered on a regular basis.

DLM — an example

At the start of a new year, organisations are often planning or starting new projects. Look at the data that your Project Management Office or project managers collect as a starting point. Such teams are often a wealth of untapped information. Don't forget about external sources of data either. While not specific to your business, external sources can provide valuable insights.

When starting a new project look at any data that you have about similar or more general. The type of information that is typically useful is how previous projects have performed, did they run long, or need expertise that wasn't expected?

So what CHIMES check in with your DLM? These ‘checks' obviously provide improvement opportunities. A 2012 Study by McKinsey and Oxford University found that of the 5,400 projects included in their study, 45 per cent overran on cost, 7 per cent had a schedule overrun, and 56 per cent had a benefits shortfall. The reasons for these varied but the key ones where:

• Unclear objectives

• Lack of business focus

• Unrealistic schedule

• Reactive planning

• Changes in scope

• Technical complexity

Armed with information like this, ask yourself how would you change the way that your organisation runs its projects? Would you alter the way they are managed? How much were the stakeholders engaged in the project? Would you change how requirements are gathered, and how the value of the project is measured?

If your Project Management Office (PMO) or project managers are not presently capturing or measuring information such as this, then this may be the ideal place for you to start your journey into data-led management.

Darren Wray is the chief executive officer of Fifth Step and has more than 25 years of IT and management experience within the Financial Services and other sectors. Fifth Step operates globally from its offices in Bermuda, London and New York, providing IT Leadership, Change Management, Governance services to executives and senior managers within insurance, investment, legal and banking organisations of all sizes. For more information about Fifth Step, the team and the services they provide, visit www.fifthstep.com.

Data-led management: modern technology enables companies to store and process reams of data, but how can this capability best help managers?

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Published February 17, 2016 at 8:00 am (Updated February 16, 2016 at 7:21 pm)

A journey into data-led management

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