The LAST Last-Mile of Data

The LAST Last-Mile of Data

I was wrong about the “last mile of data.”

Over a decade ago, this was a term I started using to express the challenges of the data world. In my consulting practice, I had seen how many organizations struggle to bridge the gap between their massive data investments and the minds and actions of decision-makers. Here’s what I said at the time:

This critical bridge between data warehouses and the communication of insights to decision-makers is often weak or missing. Your investments and meticulous efforts to create a central infrastructure can become worthless without effective delivery to end-users. “But how about my reporting interface?” you wonder. That’s a creaky and narrow bridge to rely on for the last mile of business intelligence.

When I talked about “the last mile,” I emphasized the need to better visualize data and communicate insights.

But I was missing something. You can deliver data in ways that are intuitive, friendly, simple, useful…but they still need to be sold.

Sold?! It is an ugly word for data people. It reeks of manipulation and bias.

But if want people to use your data, you need to change behaviors and assumptions. You need to convince your audience that it is worth their attention.

For example, we’ve been working with a global manufacturer committed to becoming more data fluent and data-driven across their worldwide operations. They have invested in data warehouse efforts and designed thoughtful new dashboards. Fortunately, our client realized that “built it and they will come” is a fantasy. Instead, we’ve helped them with a comprehensive plan to ensure their data has an impact. Here are a few of the steps:

● We trained a cohort of evangelists in data storytelling to improve the quality of the data products;
● We developed an internal communications campaign to go alongside their data product rollouts, explaining the value and purpose of each solution;
● We created a support structure and tutorials to ensure that data product users fully understand each data product;
● We gathered feedback and updated their data products based on user needs.

More than anything, the data leadership team recognized that technology and design are not the complete answer. They also need to change the culture and attitude of the organization.

This is the true LAST Last-Mile of Data, the changing of minds to ensure your data gets used.

Zach Gemignani is the CEO of Juice Analytics and a collaborator with the Data Science Institute