People first: How to use data to drive innovative insights


An interesting thing arose in one Chicago data consulting office’s push to find value in “Big Data”: It turned out the key to value wasn’t the data — it was the people who handled it. In a digital age, people matter more than ever.

A year of focus on how to drive insights from data led Slalom Consulting, my employer, to that discovery. The process involved internal analysis and conversation with external experts, client discussions, and much, much work in the halls of data architecture. At the end of it, we polled Slalom’s customers and I interviewed three of my colleagues on the topic.

You can find the video interview here.


Peter Talmers and Carrie Steyer discuss how people make data matter.

Three numbers came out of those discussions: There are five steps to driving value from data insights, three styles of people who make that value happen, and one crucial element to starting and sustaining the effort: Passion for inquiry — a burning desire to see how insights can energize innovation.

What are the five steps to delivering value? Identify a potential opportunity to chase; blend internal and external data streams; employ sound data governance for people, data and technology; visualize the correlations that result; and act on insights, even if you start small.

Which three people make it happen? Generally, there’s a person who inquires into potential opportunities, someone who inspires others to come along through storytelling, and someone who delivers impact by developing the workflow and follow-up needed to move from insights to decisions.

Which person are you? What are your opportunities? What tools — which data — might get you there?

– James Janega



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