Adventure diaries | Is my life a data strategy in disguise?

Stuart Squires, SVP Strategy and Consulting at Amplifi discusses how his life is a unique blend of data consulting and diving into adventurous pursuits. See how the two converge in this blog.

I spend my days delving into complex data strategies, helping businesses understand and tackle their challenges, and developing innovative solutions. My work is about creating roadmaps, engaging in stimulating discussions, and immersing myself in the world of data. Yet, I understand that not everyone finds the discussion of data as riveting as me, so I’ll strive to strike a balance here!

To prevent my life from becoming monotonous and to avoid the fate of becoming what I jokingly refer to as "a boring, middle-aged man," I've set a personal goal: to embark on at least one significant adventure every year. These adventures take me out of my comfort zone, force me into doing serious training, help me develop new skills and give me one or two stories to tell.

So how might this dubiously link into how your business might best approach a data strategy?

Just like setting a life goal, or working on yourself, a data strategy is not a six-month piece of work. It should endure for the whole lifetime of your company.

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Do I have clear objectives? Yes. “Don’t become old and boring”. Akin to your organisation’s business goals.

If I analyse my current situation... What are my skills? What can I do? What can’t I do? From the answers to these questions, I can formulate effective and sustainable plans. Akin to knowing your organisation’s capabilities though data capability assessments.

However, a goal and a plan can only take you so far. Everyone can have a new year’s resolution and put their plans down on paper; it’s the path to getting there and putting the work in that makes the real difference.

In order to help you to realise your data strategy, or any of your personal strategies, I'm going to break things down into three areas.

  • One, setting realistic goals.
  • Two, listening to wise words, and
  • Three, remember the people you need to support you.

Setting realistic goals

Firstly, setting realistic goals to exploit your strengths, and push your comfort zone. It's obviously much easier to succeed in something if you're already good at it. So, to satisfy my personal objectives of adventure, I look at my core skills such as running and cycling. They're what I know and love, and although I have those skills currently, I do still have to make sure I’m building on those and training them. But I also look at things that I'd like to be able to do, so things that would interest me and necessitate me to start training.

Some things I’ve never done before, like sea-kayaking or cross-country skiing, will help me towards my adventure objective. These plans will help me by building on my current strengths but also pushing myself quite a long way out of my comfort zone in a few situations. Progress.

It's not always easy to identify which areas you need to be good in to reach your objective. We identify what to work on through assessment frameworks. They help us define exactly what's needed to reach a particular goal. The assessments score the essential capabilities and allows us to evaluate our performance in each area. This way, we can confidently identify our strengths, whilst highlighting where we need to focus and improve. It's a straightforward approach to ensure we're covering all bases effectively.

Sorting out the kit

Choosing the right tech is a lot of fun. Amplifi often help organisations choose the right tech for them, but it isn't the whole solution. It’s easy to get into a situation where you have a business problem in front of you, and to try and resolve it you may think you can throw a piece of technology at it without strategically looking at the bigger picture. By approaching the business problem through both a data and business strategy lens, you can make better decisions on tools that will resolve business challenges in the long-term, and work alongside your organisation’s strategic goals.

The other alternative, or an option that can just augment your landscape, is renting. I've rented kit, I've rented kayaks, I've rented specialist bikes. Things that you only need for one for a short amount of time. Sometimes, that’s just what you need. At Amplifi we offer options like data quality as a service. For example, if you want to analyse and profile your data, but you don't have any tooling and you don't want to buy anything to do it, then we have a service where you use our kit and our expertise, and then you just put it back on the shelf after you've finished. It’s important to be strategic about the technology investments your business makes – are they what’s right for your data strategy long term, or could someone like Amplifi just lend you some expertise to get a job done?

Listening to wise words

Words to live by in life (and strategy): align with overall vision and objectives and remain aligned. It's very easy to go down a path of, “I’m good at something and therefore I want to carry on doing it”, but it might not be pulling or pushing in the right direction for your overall vision and objectives. There might be a shiny new thing that's interesting or nice, but it might not be worth investing time and effort in that area, because it's not pulling you towards your vision and your objective.

My aim is not to be the fastest, not to climb the highest, not to be the first person to do something, not to be the best at planning adventures. Those sorts of things can be outsourced to people who've done it many times before. I don't waste my time on doing those, I spend my time doing the things that will make a difference to me. Making sure that you aren't wasting time and budget on activities that other people can do, or don't align to your goals, is key.

Remember the people

Exploit the strengths and activities of others. So, I just mentioned outsourcing some things. You're very unlikely to be the first person or first organisation to be striving towards a particular goal. For doing what? A particular activity.

Your activities might be challenging, especially if you've never done it before, but they're probably not going to be groundbreaking. So why not lean on those who have done it before? My aim is not to work out how to go off adventuring, it's to go off adventuring.

A business's aim is not to work out how to create the best data strategy for the business, it is to have the best data strategy for a business. And remember, the strengths you can lean on aren’t always outside your business - there are plenty of them inside your business waiting to be discovered too.

Things like other projects - if projects have been signed off, have business cases and are demonstrably pushing in a strategic direction, there's no harm in piggybacking on them, no harm in having the conversations on how your data strategy and your data programmes can add value to their deliverables and vice versa, their success. You can be reflected in that success and claim some of their benefits as well.

The golden rule

Finally, it’s essential to add a note in here about realistic goals, deadlines and boundaries.

If I don't set myself short term goals and deadlines, I don't train well. I'm not a good ‘business-as-usual trainer’. I can't stick to a routine of getting up at 06:00 every morning and going for a 10k run unless I've got something to aim for. Setting myself small events or putting milestone events in the calendar across the year, allows me to monitor performance, it allows me to stay on the right path towards achieving my goals while having some other wins along the way. It allows me to celebrate success. And I think you'll get the drift by now on how this relates to business...

I maintain a robust routine involving obstacle course races, outdoor activities near mountains and seas, and constantly planning my next adventure. My approach to personal growth mirrors my professional ethos: setting clear objectives, assessing my current skills, and formulating sustainable plans.

When data strategy transcends real life

I hope you’ve taken something from hearing about how apply the principles of data strategy to my real-life adventures – whether that be in business, or in your own life. It involves setting realistic goals, seeking guidance from experienced individuals, and understanding the importance of teamwork in achieving success. Whether navigating a challenging terrain or a complex data project, the importance of strategy, adaptability, and collaboration remains paramount.

Life, much like data strategy, is unpredictable. I've learned the significance of being adaptable, altering plans when necessary, and making the most of available resources. Choosing the right equipment for an adventure or the right technology for a data project both require strategic thinking and adaptability.

Every accomplishment, be it completing a data project or reaching a mountain's summit, deserves celebration. It's about inspiring others, sharing triumphs, and setting sights on the next challenge. Sit with the feeling of accomplishment before running headfirst into your project and reflect on the lessons learnt.

If you ever have questions or need insights into data strategy – or even adventure planning – feel free to reach out. You can also read more about our Data Strategy methodology, and how to fully apply the principles mentioned in this article to your organisation in our brand-new guide ‘Data Strategy Methodology with Amplifi: A tried, tested and proven methodology’ below. Here's to embracing the adventure in data and life!

About the author

Stuart Squires is SVP Strategy & Consulting at Amplifi.

He is responsible for Amplifi’s global strategy practice which continually establishes and delivers data strategy engagements that meet the unique requirements of each and every one of our clients. If you would like to speak with Stuart about the data strategy in your organisation, please fill out our contact form here.

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