PwC: Five ways to unleash the full force of your data

Written by: PwC Posted: 22/05/2020

BL67_PwC_Callum McCutcheonYour organisation is awash with data, but how much of it are you able to use effectively? PwC recently partnered with British Athletics to help it harness the power of data to inspire performance. Drawing on the lessons learned from this project, and how this relates to key challenges facing businesses in the Channel Islands, Callum McCutcheon (pictured), Manager in PwC’s Advisory team in Guernsey, looks at how you can make the most of your data

Success often comes down to the finest of margins. The gap between gold medal-winning Usain Bolt and last-placed Trayvon Bromell in the 2016 Olympics 100 metres final was a quarter of a second, little more than the blink of an eye. With no disrespect to Bromell, we all know which of these two names we remember. 

Data analysis has the potential to help turn a promising athlete into a winning one. This might be gauging the optimum diet, judging the right balance between strength and agility, or tracking training performance in the lead-up to a big event. 

This isn’t about replacing coaches – their experience and insight are still vital. Rather, data analysis can help coaches to make more informed decisions, understand the results and ultimately enable their athletes to achieve more.

Turning data into insight

The big question is how well all this data is used. When PwC started working with British Athletics, it was clear that there was no lack of information, ranging from what the athletes had for breakfast to times run and weights being bench-pressed. But the data tended to be analysed separately. 

In turn, a lot of the resulting analysis was being presented to coaches in a way that was difficult for them to comprehend and turn into actionable insights. If coaches are confused or can’t see the value in the analysis they’re getting, they’ll simply bin it. 

The PwC team has therefore been working with British Athletics to bring all the data together and cross-analyse it to help gauge the patterns, interdependencies and telling insights. 

We’ve also helped them implement new ways to visualise the data, making it much easier for coaches to see clearly what’s going on and dig deeper into the analysis.

Advantage Channel islands

What are the equivalent data opportunities and challenges we’re seeing here in the Channel Islands? The latest analytical techniques are already being used widely to help optimise everything from cost efficiency to regulatory compliance. 

In businesses that are under pressure to deliver more for less, and where time and resources are inevitably in short supply, one of the key benefits of effective data analysis is identifying the pain points most in need of addressing. Similarly, from a risk and regulatory perspective, analysis can pinpoint potential vulnerabilities and guide a proactive response. 

Yet a lot of the potential can often be undermined by inconsistencies and poor data governance. Key data can also be trapped within separate siloes rather than being brought together in an effective and actionable way. 

Like coaches, the other big problem is that a lot of business executives find the analysis they receive is either unintelligible or difficult to apply in practice. 

The good news is that a lot of these issues can be resolved without major investment. Analytical tools are getting easier and easier to use. In turn, effective data management strategies can help to iron out inconsistencies and create a single repository to allow data to be easily shared around the organisation. 

And to make sure the analysis is deployed to best effect, interactive visualisation tools make it much easier to get to the key insights, see how the data fits together, and allow users to drill down into areas they would like to investigate further.

Getting up to speed 

How, then, can you make the most of all these possibilities? Rather than hiring data scientists and buying in a lot of complex tools straight off, we would recommend a pragmatic and cost-effective approach:

1. Learn as you go, build as you go – Take time to find out the possibilities opened up by the latest technology and the kind of solutions they offer.

2. Match the opportunity to the solution you need – Drawing on your understanding of what’s possible, you can judge what solutions could be applied to help address the particular pain points and strategic goals within your business.

3. Make the case – Subsidiary businesses here can sometimes find it difficult to secure parent funding for data investment. Small-scale pilot projects in areas such as cost and risk can help to demonstrate tangible gains, and hence support the case for further funding.

4. Don’t be afraid to fail – Making these changes is hard. You won’t always get it right, but some will work well and help you win hearts and minds.

5. Don’t stop changing – There can never be a one-time fix. Technology will keep evolving, so you need to maintain skills, awareness and focus. 

Callum McCutcheon, PwC Advisory
Mobile: +44 (0) 7911 720801

• This advertising feature was first published in the April/May 2020 edition of Businesslife magazine

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