Reversing the Tech-First Mindset: A Framework for Data Leaders

Welcome, Data Rock Stars 🎸🤘

It’s so great to see so many new faces around here. Data leadership is often a confusing and challenging space, so if there is ever any topic you’d like me to focus on to help demystify it, please let me!

This week I’m focusing on a very common challenge for data leaders. How to reverse the long established tech-first mindset that many business leaders hold on to when it comes to data.

Let’s dive on in! 👇🏻

☠️ The Problem With a Tech-First Mindset

So, when it comes time to solve problems with data, their minds automatically go to trying to understand what’s possible technically rather than trying to understand it from a business standpoint.

The result of this is often a huge investment into data capabilities that require expensive technical hires to support the project.

But that’s only where the trouble starts. You also need to consider:

  • Complexity and integration issues with existing data sets.

  • Constant training and up skilling staff

  • A false sense of security that your firm is nailing data

  • Short term focus and constantly evolving tech trends

While technology is undeniably a powerful enabler, a tech-first mindset in data can lead to misguided investments, overlooked fundamentals, and missed opportunities.

The key is to view technology as one piece of a larger data strategy, ensuring that it serves the overarching goals of the organisation.

💰The Opportunity Cost of a Tech-First Mindset

I’m always saying, “Data is a business discipline (with technical components)”. As such, everything we do in data needs to be backed up with a strong business case that aligns to the company’s overall strategy.

By automatically looking at technical solutions, we will very likely fail to uncover the broader business justification for any initiative. The result of this is a tonne up money going up in smoke of tools and platforms, and the creation of an endless loop and tech investment, failure and re-investment.

When creating a business strategy, technology needs to be the last piece of the puzzle - not the first.

⭐️ Strategies For Reversing The Tech-First Mindset

👩🏽‍🏫 Education is at the Core:

The first step in overturning this mindset is education. Data leaders must prioritise educating their non-data peers about the core principles of data.

This includes:

  • Fundamentals of Data: Data isn’t just numbers. It tells stories and provides us with insight and is the cornerstone of strategic decision making.

  • Tech Limitations: More tech doesn’t automatically result in better insights. Much of this will come down to the talent and curiosity of your data team.

🤝 Building Stronger Relationships:

Data leaders need to forge strong relationships with other leaders within the organisation.

Collaborative ventures can take several forms:

  • Regular Sync-Ups: Meet frequently with your non-data peers and discuss with them ways in which the data we have today can help solve problems they have.

  • Run Workshops: Give non-data leaders the opportunity to get their hands dirty with the data. This will give them a greater sense of is possible and already available as well of a feeling of ownership and contribution.

📈 Showcase Results!

Data leaders should strive to provide demonstrative results that highlight the effectiveness of non-tech-centric solutions.

This can involve:

  • Case Studies: Share stories of success with data, either from within the business or externally. Focus on how simple solution have had big impacts.

  • Proof of Concepts (POC): Before deciding a new technology, see if the desired outcome can be achieved by the current tech stack - even if you have to hack it a little…

By emphasising education, fostering collaboration, and showcasing results, data leaders can usher in a more holistic, effective approach to problem-solving, placing as much importance on strategy, processes, and people as on technology.

⚡️Whenever you are ready here are a few ways I can help you: