Creating teams. Shaping futures.

Ask the expert: Data Analytics for SMEs

It is always our aim to showcase and share the remarkable expertise and industry knowledge of those around us. The bottom line of today’s topic is, SMEs can really use Big Data to their advantage.

As part of this, we caught up with Helen Tanner, Data Specialist at Data³. Helen helps big brands and startups unlock the potential of their data; whether it’s customer focused, employee data or sales data.

We asked Helen for some practical insights and pointers on analytics in an SME context specifically, and why it’s so important. Here, our chat as part of our ‘Ask the Expert’ series.

ADLIB: Let’s start from the beginning. What is your professional background and why have you decided to set up data ³?

Helen Tanner: I started my career as a coder working for The Met Office in 1997, way before data was cool or terms like ‘predictive analytics’ were formed. And yet meteorological organisations were the first homes for supercomputers and could be described as the home of predictive analytics in the form of weather forecasts.

I then worked for 13 years in Marketing Director and senior leadership roles for global financial services companies like AXA and Computershare. As time went on, I saw a growing opportunity for data-driven actionable insights. Insights that could drive our product strategies, our pricing decisions, our sales targeting and generally help businesses to make or save more money. But the challenge was always the same – we lacked the time and resource needed to exploit our data. We were sat on a goldmine of data, but with limited resources to tap into it. That’s why I set up Data3 in 2017.

ADLIB: in your opinion, why is data important?

Helen Tanner: We’ve arrived at a digital age where everything is fuelled by data. Every day our exposure to digital homes, appliances, vehicles and wearable and implantable devices is growing. And all these devises are connected to the net and generating hordes of data. The business world is no different, our interaction with brands is almost entirely digital based – the products we view online, the emails we open, the adverts we watch.

Nearly every interaction leaves a digital trail; a message for businesses about how their customers are interacting with them, what they’re thinking about them and what they may do in the future.

But with all this data comes a big challenge. It’s all very well capturing every metric under the sun, but if it’s not stored correctly, cleansed, analysed and visualised the right way – it’s useless. Worse than useless in some cases, it can even inform the wrong decisions. I wanted to create a simple way for businesses, without huge budgets and data scientist teams, to exploit their data. To tap into their data goldmine and make or save more money for their business.

ADLIB: What challenges do you see businesses up against when they want to run data projects?

Helen Tanner: To win at the data game, you’ve got to start off with the right objectives. You’ve got to ask the right questions, set the right goals, measure success in the right way, think about your users and tell a story with your data.

Many businesses start in the middle and start with the data. They know they want a dashboard. They gather all the data they can find, they load this into the dashboard…and then the dashboard is never used. It may look pretty – but it’s not generating insight or driving change.

A large part of what we do is working with data teams, marketing teams and sales teams to really figure out what their business levers are and how data can better inform their decision-making.

It’s much better to have one or two smart business objectives, take just the right amount of data from various sources, and build a tool that can be measured against really clear KPIs than throw everything at a dashboard. When we work like this, we see our clients make and save money and see real success as a result of their data tools.

ADLIB: Can you share a little bit about how data³ works?

We work with businesses that have one of three problems. They don’t have enough data resources in-house – so we fast-track them. They don’t have the right skills in-house – so we upskill them. They don’t know how to monetise data – we help them to innovate.

Data ³ provides businesses with a data SWAT team. An outsourced band of consultants, analysers, scientists and visualisers that transform data into actionable insight and help businesses to grow. We offer businesses an alternative to hiring full-time members of staff because we can complete projects faster and cheaper than in-house teams

Our typical work includes building data products and tools from scratch, quickly and effectively; Upskilling data teams so they can run sophisticated reports with ease; Supporting existing data projects by sharing our expertise and fast-tracking results; Providing ongoing training and support as a business needs it – so they don’t need to worry and Defining data exploration and predictive analytics projects enabling a business to innovate.

We encourage any business – no matter how big or small, old or new – to exploit the value of their data. To step away from basic reporting in trusty MS Excel and discover the significant business benefits of tapping into their data goldmine.

Thank you for sharing, Helen!

Maximising Productivity in the Workplace

We had a chat with Charles Vaughan, Productivity Partner at Smarter Not Harder about efficiency in the workplace and how assessments can maximise employee engagement and drive productivity across the board.

ADLIB: For some background information and in a nutshell, what does SNH Training offer in a productivity sense specifically?

Charles Vaughan: SNH helps people achieve more in less time without compromising the quality or enjoyment of what they do.

Emails at record levels, constant interruptions and distractions are just some of the things hampering workplace productivity. The way people feel also plays a big part and an increasing number tell us they aren’t making progress, lack control or feel overwhelmed, can’t switch off or anxious and stressed.

For around 15 years we’ve been fascinated by what makes people highly productive. It’s no secret that businesses frequently spend large sums on new technology to increase efficiency and fresh workspaces to aid collaboration but so often we see these having the opposite effect on personal productivity.

Our research has isolated the 16 things the most productive people do consistently and our training equips people with a set of tools and skills designed to be simple, quick and practical to implement. It’s having a massive impact on the way people feel about their workload, their level of control, focus and ultimately their work output. We regularly see people increasing their capacity by 10 – 15 %, that’s 2 – 3 extra days per month.

ADLIB: How do you think that implementing specific productivity techniques can help with workplace stress?

Charles Vaughan: Workplace stress and anxiety is undoubtedly a significant cause of absence, in fact, according to the CIPD Health & Well-being Survey 2018, it accounts for 50% of long term absences and the trend isn’t positive. Whilst there are many factors that contribute to this, workload volume is the top cause.

We recognise the patterns and behaviours that lead to the most common causes of stress and anxiety and have built our programme to tackle these head-on. Whether it’s an out of control email inbox, project and deadline overload or just the relentless interruptions or distractions caused by people and technology, we help employees regain control in a way that helps them think, feel and behave more positively and ultimately achieve more in less time.

ADLIB: Can you share 3 pieces of wisdom or exercises that one could introduce into their daily routine as an employee or as a manager?

Charles Vaughan: There are so many but my top 3 are:

1.Smart Working needs to be seen as a ‘Team Sport’. The positive or negative impact colleagues, leaders, managers have on their teams can be massive. It can make or break the productivity of an organisation. A culture where last minute requests and constant interruptions can reduce the quantity and quality of people’s work as well as adversely affect the way people feel about their job.

Many people find it difficult to say ‘NO’, particularly to their manager, so our tip is to say ‘Not Now’ and suggest a time to speak.

2.Secondly, you’ve got to have a plan for the day – A little daily planning makes a big difference, so spending just 5 minutes each day can be one of the best investments you can make in your productivity. Being realistic about what you can achieve by predicting how long to spend on tasks is an important step. Whether you plan the night before or first thing, make sure you do it before getting caught up in emails or activities that distract you from your plan.

3.Finally, and this goes hand in hand with a great daily plan but if you know you’ll get interrupted during the day with urgent matters, then incorporate some ‘Contingency’ time into your plan. Be realistic about how long you need to allocate but don’t be surprised when you add it up if it’s more than you expect. Many people I speak to realistically need to factor in 60 – 90 minutes of contingency each day.

ADLIB: In your opinion, how can a productivity assessment & plan improve the way that people work?

Charles Vaughan: Without a doubt, a productivity assessment and plan can be a game changer. Assessments allow people to benchmark their progress against a set of proven behaviours. The resulting development plan then enables someone to create a personalised plan. Our approach doesn’t require people to go from A – Z in a linear fashion, we accept people are different and so are their roles, so we work by helping with the things that make the biggest and quickest difference but we encourage ‘progress not perfection’.

The great news is, things are connected so helping someone get better at planning, in turn, helps them become more focused and less susceptible to interruptions and distractions, more resilient and motivated.

ADLIB: In general, how can consistent productivity be reinforced in the workplace and self-managed as a priority?

Charles Vaughan: My tip to consistently ‘Win the day’ is to be disciplined and embrace the “4 T’s.”

  • Tools – Consistently using planning tools such as our TODAY LIST is a simple way to plan your day the right way. Without a robust and realistic plan outcomes are less predictable.
  • Technology – Use it well and be in control and not a slave to it.
  • Teamwork – Everyone in an organisation plays a big part in organisational productivity, so respect other people’s time, not expect it.
  • Time to reflect – in a busy and dynamic organisation it’s impossible for everything to always go to plan. The key is recognising the signs early and the best way is to occasionally take time to reflect and focus on what’s going well and what can be improved on.

Thanks so much for sharing, Charles!

As part of our work and life balance initiative, we are featuring knowledge, tools and advice that will help businesses and individuals to understand the benefits and approaches to finding the right work-life balance.

This series is all about the conscious step of “putting people at the centre” and utilising them as your greatest asset in order to increase productivity and happiness in the workplace.

The People Behind the Tech: Ant Kennedy

Please meet Ant Kennedy, Lead Developer at Gapsquare. Ant shares what gets him excited about Gapsquare, the tech behind it, who they are and his professional background and career journey to date.

ADLIB: What gets you excited about working on Gapsquare?

Ant Kennedy: First and foremost the opportunity to work on a technology product and for a company whose mission is to make a positive impact on the world. Alongside there is plenty of opportunities to use the latest technologies around Cloud Native and get involved in all areas of the business from DevOps, Front End, Back End, Data Science, etc. due to the small agile tech team we all get to pitch in in all areas.

ADLIB: What’s the tech behind it?

Ant Kennedy: We are a Cloud Native tech company building our platform atop the shoulders of giants using technologies such as Kuberenetes (based on Google’s Borg cluster management tool) for environment orchestration, Prometheus (Open Sourced from SoundCloud) for monitoring our platform.

On top of this, we are running services written in Golang and frontend in TypeScript/Angular. To support the tech we are running Kanban (for now whilst the tech team is small) and recently established Continuous Delivery into our staging environment and fingers crossed into production later this year.

ADLIB: What has been and is your role at Gapsquare?

Ant Kennedy: My role at Gapsquare so far has been to come in and sure-up Gapsquare’s platform and Development processes in preparation for growing the team in 2019. Alongside this I have been looking at the future of the platform how-how we can leverage Cloud Native tech to help speed up the development lifecycle, and being more Machine Learning / Artificial Intelligence into our core product.

ADLIB: How did you get to here, what has been your career journey so far?

Ant Kennedy: I started out rather unceremoniously by failing my A Levels in 6th Form and decided I had the capability to do better but had the wrong attitude. Moving forward I did a BTEC in computing followed by a Computer Science degree.

During my studies and after graduating I worked at Boeing where I had to focus on being a full stack engineer due to the flexible nature of the work the team was required to do from experimentation, software demonstrators to technology transition from Boeing Research & Technology.

Following this, I joined an ML/AI startup Adarga where I joined as Engineer number first building a concept demonstrator followed by growing the engineering team and focusing more on platform architecture.

Finally, I landed in Gapsquare motivated by the company mission to change the world for the better.

ADLIB: Can you pinpoint a key moment or has there been a key person that led you to a career with Technology?

Ant Kennedy: During my BTEC we were assigned a piece of coursework to write a postage stamp calculator, during this coursework (and the frustrations that went along with it) I finally got ‘programming’ and the puzzle solving mentality that goes along with it. Looking back at it now I can safely say that taking that module has changed the direction of my life for the better

ADLIB: If an 8-year-old kid would ask you “Why Should I want to work in Tech?” what would be your response?

Ant Kennedy: So you can help shape the future; the tools you will be helping to build will have an impact on how others work, socialise, shop and generally get things done in both big and small ways.

Thank you for sharing!