How You Can Make Better Decisions from Data*
Data-led decision making is the ideal; evidence-based thinking. Our city data champions that from real world data. But does it happen enough in real life in cities and business? How we can change...
A consultant in data analysis just shocked me. At a conference.
Well, no he didn’t really.
And you are going to realise how true this of almost every ‘data-driven’ or ‘evidential’ project out there. How often reality falls short of the claims of being ‘data-led’. Or ‘evidence-based’. And what we can DO about that.
But soon. First some background and story-telling to set the scene.
Some more suspense. Like those horror movies.
Shocked, yes shocked.
We are at the ‘shock phase’ of our consultants bold statement.
Having done data since I started my career with CD-Roms of data, almost nothing shocks me. Users really did use the CD-Rom player as a coffee cup holder. Yep that button was the pop out cup holder.
Also, I often carried sensitive company data records on CDs at the request of the CEOs or executives. Who insisted I do so. Despite my protests.
Arguably safer than an ‘encrypted internet’ …given the hacking these days.
(On a side note I have found out my circadian rhythym is totally messed up from programming computers since I was 8, and I can report you millennials have some bio-feedback fun to look forward to. Welcome to the Matrix. Biohacking as ‘standard’.)
I saw an iPhone hacked in real time. When it was ‘unhackable’.
I saw servers delete their own records on supposedly secure databases.
And yet, here we are.
I am shocked.
Glad you asked.
Data Practice vs Theory
The consultant’s comment was about how data works in practice.
And it was a shocker.
But it is also true.
His comment should shock your city government and shape your data warehouse, and data strategy (if any - c’mon be honest).
You should have a strategy, but often data sits in a federal, state or other agencies. Or multiple agencies. Or corporations. In silos.
If you are lucky your city have a great city promotion agency like Barcelona Activa or Brisbane Marketing. Who kind of sort, organise and fix this data from silos into marketable tales - so your city government doesn’t have to.
They promote your city for business. And trade.
They often gather data painfully from multiple locations.
For those on the business or other agency side, this applies to you also. Your data probably is also in silos, and despite those cross-enterprise integration projects, still does not deliver.
But for the sake of examples, and as a focus, I will continue discussing the applicability of the ideas to the data function in City Government.
But you get the drill - it applies to almost everyone.
Shocked …I tell you “shocked”
Enough of the suspense.
Anyway, what Alex said was…
“Consultants are always asked to find data to support a decision.
“Not the other way round.”
Alex, Consultant of Unnamed Providence
That innocuous sentence should shock you. Also.
You mean policy and line/top level decisions come before the data?
We are not in Kansas any more.
Nor even, Oz.
Decisions Come First
So … decision made. Data only justifies said decision.
Is this what ‘data-driven’ means? Well maybe not.
But it is what happens.
Shocked I know. If you are a graduate you will be incredulous. A non-consultant or non-battle hardened public servant may not even believe this is possible.
If you listen to the ABC (Australia’s national broadcaster - staffed with left-leaning folks) - you will not believe this is ‘possible’.
Aren’t evidence based decisions based on evidence??
That’s not how it is supposed to work.
But that’s not how the politicians say it works.
(Think back to the lockdowns, which came first? The data - and no models projecting future outcomes that didn’t occur are NOT data they are disingenuous at best, and propaganda at worst. Data is hard numbers not artsy fartsy projections.
Or did the decisions to lock down come first?
You know which it was. It was the decision that came first. That’s what ‘everyone’ was doing.)
Because, that is how it does more often work.
(How to solve this problem using a single method, comes later in this missive.)
When I have taught innovation project management… there are some solution vectors that come to the fore.
Unfortunately here’s the paywall. Soz. (‘Sorry’ but the millenial version…)