Data as a Transactional Currency

As leaders across every industry sector seek to make better business decisions, there’s an ever louder cry of, “We need data!”. Yes, we all know the power of data, but harnessing its full potential relies on the ability of people and organisations to understand the true role and value of data – as well as the responsibilities and challenges of managing and using it.

As Head of Consulting at Parity, I spend a lot of time speaking to clients about their systems and their data. Before we can talk about systems though, we first need insights on the user needs that drive the demand for data, and its journey as a transactional currency – systems are created to handle data, not the other way around!

User needs are at the heart of service design, a field I’ve been interested in for many years. We've all seen instances where operational considerations trump the needs of end users, resulting in less than good experiences. Service design gives us a framework to put user needs centre stage – the ultimate measure of a successful data transaction is that it is borne out of or to fulfil a user need.

At Parity we see data as a human process. Service design starts with a deep understanding of your users, their needs and wider journey, and the ‘job that needs to be done’. While it may traditionally have been primarily a qualitative and sometimes creative process, service design today has evolved to reflect the constant, user led changes of an intrinsically iterative world.

All user needs are, in the end, about data, and a data driven service design brings new potential to the table. Increasingly, I’m working with companies that see design and data as interconnected and complementary, and through the right strategy and implementation approach, we can unlock our data to generate invaluable and sometimes unimagined user insights.

It’s the role of service designers to work out how we can best integrate user needs, data driven, fact-based design with creative and intuitive approaches to create services people want to use. By leveraging approaches such as machine learning and concepts like AI, the predictive potential of data is coming to the fore, and combined with strong, good services, the possibilities across all sectors are immense.

Where working with data from organisational systems alone might be seen as one dimensional, the array of data sources at our disposal today is a game changer.  Web analytics and organisational systems are just the start – think wearable tech, location services-enabled apps, always on connectivity… the list goes on, the possibilities are endless.

Data is the currency of insights and deriving value from it is a point of competition. But with readily available data can come organisational pressure to use it, regardless: we have to avoid the trap of seeing data as an end in itself.

Service design must focus on breaking down barriers to the use of data, promoting collaboration and eliminating data friction points. Keeping a focus on users means designing for their needs, always asking ‘what’s the job to be done’ and how can it be supported by the smallest possible yet necessary number of steps to produce pertinent and useful data.

Article by Antonio Acuna, Head of Consulting at Parity. If you’re interested in data management, join me at Big Data LDN (November 13). In my talk on ‘Demystifying data’, I’ll be sharing some of what I’ve learnt about data, including practical insights that will help you manage data better, and take your data strategy from ideation to implementation.

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