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Monetary value of data – Rhona MacLennan

Hear Rhona MacLennan (Principle Solutions Architect at The Data Lab) talk about how she considers value when doing data projects.
I started my career building systems for the Norwegian and UK offshore industry. And, and it was long enough ago that we still had to consider the costs of storage and things like that. So we had to think about data design up front. And more importantly, the first system I built was for tracking people offshore. And this was just three years after Piper Alpha disaster. And what struck home to me at that point was that the data in those systems represented real people in dangerous situations, so we had to make sure that system was always 100% correct. And it’s always stuck with me the importance and the value for managing data correctly.
And that’s kind of been a thread that’s run right the way through my career. Post post that type of work I moved into specialising in financial systems and became a ERP specialist working in the offshore and then working for both Cisco and Nike in their European headquarters in Amsterdam, and some interesting data challenges arose in those roles. When I came back to Scotland just nearly 18 years ago now, I started working in financial services, and and while I was with Bright Grey, I joined, I moved into architecture. I’ve fulfilled a number of solution and Enterprise Architecture roles across financial services. FMCG, technology companies in the intervening time.
And in my last two roles, I became a customer of the Data Lab. So the chance to work with them on innovation projects when I was at Edrington and NCR and attend some of the great events like data fest. And when the opportunity arose to join the data lab earlier this year as the principal solutions architect, I jumped at the chance to join such a great team and the opportunity to start looking at delivering value from data. For me starting with any initiative in it and particular any data initiative is you start with the Business outcome you want to achieve.
Data, often the benefits are delivered several stages away or steps away in a business process or in parts of an organisation from where the work needs to be done to make it happen. So making a case directly can be can be very challenging. So I find trying to start small with a clear business outcome, you have to link it up with what’s going to drive the business forward. And so it’s not just playing with technology for technology’s sake.
An example of that was when I was at at Scottish Widows we were struggling to make the case for improving data quality across the organisation with lots of really good data, really old data, insurance products and pensions can last for many, many years. So we did a small, external data quality check for a couple of closed booked products to show that actually their was value to be had from that, through that small project we identified 10s of policies that were still being paid out on, and that realised a number of benefits for the organisation, direct financial benefits so it saved nearly 250,000 pounds a year that we weren’t paying out on policies, which we should have stopped paying on a few years ago and also retained capital where you have to keep capital to cover the costs of policies you’re paying out on, and that was over 2 million pounds.
So those two simple numbers allowed us to make the case to engage a team full time to actually start looking at data quality across the organisation. But without those tangible examples, that would have been a much longer and harder process. So starting small, trying to get an example that will resonate with people in your business that might know what, might not know what you did, or how you did it but can see what the results are. And and then using that to build leverage to do bigger initiatives.
Rhona MacLennan is The Data Lab’s Principal Solutions Architect.

Rhona has very wide ranging data experience. I asked Rhona to introduce herself and to talk about how she considers value when doing data projects. I think she gives a great example of the monetary value you can attribute to data.

It was great to hear about the benefits of managing data correctly. Rhona also raised many points discussed by the other practitioners contributing to the course:

  • Make sure you have clear business outcomes.

  • Start small to increase your likelihood of success.

  • Focus on what on what matters, what resonates with stakeholders.

I hope you will agree that by focusing on value, and outcomes, you can overcome some of the barriers to success.

Do you agree? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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Introduction to Data for Business Leaders

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