Taking Those First Steps To Your Data Future

Data Science is a journey, not just a destination

Data. Everyone is at it. And you should probably do it too. Before that happens you need to understand where the data is coming from, what it can tell you, how it can make a real impact on your business and how you are going to start the process.

Things can grind to a halt when the AI you employ tries to work with incomplete data, low quality data or badly structured data. If you start the more advanced part of the process before you start collecting and cleaning data, working out what data and why you need it and what you will need it for, then you are just throwing resources away and your timelines will start to stretch further and further into the future.

There is a lot of pressure for companies to start running to the finish line, spooked by their competitors, but in this story you will want to be the tortoise rather than the hare, taking it steady at first, to make sure you have the pieces you need in place before moving onto the latter stages.

Hiring a team before you have an infrastructure plan in place is madness. Fresh data scientists being thrown in at the deep end will not only fail at a thankless task, but they will become alienated, the project will fall behind, the delays will drain more budget and you will be where you started: a company unable to mine value from its data.

It also runs the risk of souring the C-Suite on the idea of data as a worthwhile pursuit. They threw money at the problem, data people were hired, but there is now nothing to show for it. What gives?

To avoid this frustration, a clear understanding must be sought about who is needed and at what stages. Specialist recruiters can be brought in to build a team from the ground up, with realistic time frames, and a knowledge of who is needed when. They will understand that instead of cramming a job spec with every skill you can think of, the description should be targeted for the specific role. There are a diverse set of skills out there in the workforce to be tapped into. People who could be perfect for the task you require should not be dismissed out of hand. If you are requiring someone have a number of years’ experience in something which, until 5 years ago, was virtually unknown, then you are damaging your chances of filling that role.

Before you have an answer, you must have a question, right? That is how it works in the world and it is also how it works within Data. Sometimes it is a ‘chicken and the egg’ situation: figuring out what you need done, then working out if you have, or can obtain, the data to get it done, or figuring out the data and working out whether it has value for your future. Either way, this groundwork must be completed before the hiring of the full team. You may hire in a consultant to create the plan, but it cannot be fully left to those with no, or very little, data experience. This is a time when core business problems are discussed and evaluated, while data possibilities are floated.

A good starting point is to educate everyone within the company about the importance of data. This can help, as the suggestions of the staff themselves, when it comes to problems that can conceivably be solved by data, can really drive change.

Understanding that data can be cross-departmental is another step forward. There is a habit to view this as just an IT issue, but data should be coming from multiple departments within your company, so there needs to be cooperation in order to make sure it is correctly generated and stored and can be used in a timely fashion.

Knowing where your data is actually stored and what kind of state it is in, is a great start. So many companies have it stored hither and thither, or just plain don’t know where it is because they have not had to think about it since it was created.

At all stages there should be an understanding that this will positively impact the business in real terms. There must be business value in the data if this is to be a worthwhile endeavour.

Curious about how Zenshin Talent can help your organisation? Contact us today for a no-strings conversation about your needs and our experience.

Projects Can No Longer Be Stalled Due To Covid-19 Uncertainty

Stalled projects are restarting and there is a sense of optimism

A major point we have been made aware of from hiring managers and C-suite executives is the fact that they are beginning to start pushing forward with stalled projects.

After the first lockdown, the majority of companies delayed their upcoming Data & AI programmes until 2021 in order to save the extra effort and extra anguish of trying to set these during a time of extreme uncertainty and instability. They did this in the hopes that the government would guide us out of this period but it is becoming ever more apparent that no one knows when this chaos will end with schools opening and closing again, areas of the country falling into ever stricter tiers of lockdown and a feeling that without full vaccination, this will grind on until at least next year.

Regarding technology, there is a real acceptance that companies can’t stall any longer and need to get on with it. There is a general optimism around AI & Data projects and starting back up with a renewed focus on the goal in hand.

A recent news story highlighted that stalled offshore oil projects could take as long as 3 years to restart. Obviously, data projects shouldn’t take as long as that but they must be prioritised so that they start up sooner rather than later. Here we can highlight the issue of finding leading talent as an integral element for future plans moving forward and quickly building strong teams with complimenting skillsets.

The pandemic caused plans to be shelved and resources were poured into setting up remote working, trying to keep consumers happy by not interrupting the flow of products and services and focusing on marketing to let the customers know that things were ‘business as usual’.

Even before Covid-19 struck, there were a lot of stalled AI and Data projects. This was due to many factors but two of the major ones were a lack of understanding within the organisation of what these projects were meant to achieve and  hiring policies which were woefully inadequate.

Prioritisation of which projects to start, restart, end or automate is extremely important. You cannot run before you walk. There will be an impetus to rush back into these but they actually require a measured response.

When moving their workers to online platforms, a lot of companies discovered flaws in their methodology and began fixing problems. This has set the stage for AI & Data projects to start from a level playing field whereas before they may have been at a disadvantage, not only due to data being misunderstood, but also from systems that were in dire need of updating.

More businesses have actually prioritised automation and data science due to Covid disruption, moving away from opinions to a more data driven strategy. On top of that, cost reduction is also not as much of a priority as it was pre-Covid. These are good times to be candidates experienced in these fields but when it comes down to hiring, companies need to know what they are doing and they need to upskill fast, before all of the best prospects have been snatched up by better-prepared businesses.

PwC predicts that companies will increase spending on cloud-based systems after the pandemic is over. The transformation when the emergency hit was unprecedented and within a few months it was approaching an estimated two-years-worth of growth acceleration. Early investment can actually save money in the long run.

Companies need people who have an overview of the process to step in and lead this revolution. Optimism is growing in the sector and there is no doubt that it can lead to huge successes. If a company has a carefully-selected team with the budget to drive the important projects it is planning, there is no reason why there cannot be something else to celebrate when the Covid crisis is over.

Curious about how Zenshin Talent can help your organisation? Contact us today for a no-strings conversation about your needs and our experience.

What Is Going Wrong With C-Suite Candidates?

A businessman stands in front of a window looking at a high rise building
Businesses are struggling to find the right C-Suite candidates

I was speaking with a friend and they mentioned that for C- level hires (Senior Directors and above), companies only get the correct fit 20% of the time. That is an astonishing figure. But what might be behind it and what can we do to remedy that situation?

A little research reveals that there is a real issue around leaders who possess the technical knowledge needed for the role they have.

There is definitely mismanagement going on within the search process.

There also seems to be a correlating between unpreparedness and the frequency of roles, meaning that those who have not moved around a lot and have not experienced the job market as much are less likely to have up-to-date training.

What appears to be happening is that C-Suite executives who are the perfect fit for the position are ill-prepared at interview leaving those who are prepared but technically inexperienced to fill the roles.

On the flipside, recruiters must ask the right questions during those interviews. Asking what a candidates greatest weakness is, can give a one dimensional impression of them. Questions along the lines of ‘How have you improved XYZ?’ or ‘How do you deal with conflict?’ will help to understand how their mind works and what interpersonal skills they bring to the table.

There are many different routes to the positions they have attained. A candidate that looks good on paper is a great start but their resume must be interrogated. There is no shame in exposing their flaws because that gives a fuller picture of the individual. One should also never be intimidated by someone with an impressive CV. At the end of the day, they need to fit in with the long-term future of the company and spending time doing this kind of work, saves time in the end.

From a recruiter point of view, some of the big mistakes prospects make are a lack of understanding of what the relationship between recruiter and candidate should entail, too much ego and a lack of strategy on the part of the C-level exec.

Candidates who are perfect for these types of roles misunderstand that their interactions with a recruiter at this level should be about relationship development not merely transaction. Rudeness is also not tolerated. Instead of picking up and dropping their recruiter, they should endeavour to build the relationship for the future, especially as a ’job for life’ is a distant memory in this new business world.

Operating at the highest levels within a business, these candidates will be used to getting their own way, being praised and expecting things to happen when they demand it. That attitude will have served them well within the business but when looking for a new job, these attitudes can inhibit any further successful progression.

Humanity and humility are so important. In order to stand out from the many candidates also vying for the job, they must be willing to show that they can accept coaching and advice, that they will take on some extra training if they need to. Recruiters will always remember discourteous candidates and if they do not actively engage, they will be forgotten.

Finally, one can get nowhere without strategy. The candidate often believes that they are the buyer, interviewing the company, rather than the seller, pitching what they have to offer to the company. Every way the C-suite exec interacts with a recruiter or company, be it via Linkedin, the story they tell on the phone, their resume, must all match up and demonstrate a unique position which is also consistent.

Both sides must define their strategy and, slowly but surely, that number will rise from 20% to 100%.

Curious about how Zenshin Talent can help your organisation? Contact us today for a no-strings conversation about your needs and our experience.