At one of our clients, a large non-governmental organization (NGO), we recently completed their migration to a future-proof cloud data platform. While this NGO recognized the immense volume and potential value of their data, they faced a broader challenge. In particular, they had difficulties using their cloud infrastructure effectively to harness the power of their data and create an impact across the organization.
Our client attributed this problem to a lack of awareness of the individual departments’ business and operational challenges that could be mitigated using data. As the NGO’s data team recognized the importance of identifying and prioritizing impactful data initiatives across departments, they reached out to us. They tasked us to organize a series of collaborative data workshops to identify potential data initiatives within individual departments.
To make hidden data challenges visible across the NGO’s organization, we designed a series of three interactive data workshops applicable to various individual departments. Our primary purpose was identifying, prioritizing, and (where possible) already operationalizing impactful data initiatives for multiple departments throughout their organization.
The objective of the first workshop was to discover and collect all possible data initiatives within a department. Therefore, we designed this data workshop to foster creativity and inspiration among department representatives by educating them about the role of data in a data-driven organization. We developed a framework to highlight the different use cases of data through real-life examples. Those use cases ranged from data visualization to AI applications. Using this framework as a guide, we had open discussions with all participants about the main day-to-day challenges they faced and the potential data initiatives that could mitigate them. At this point, we didn’t focus on data requirements or potential roadblocks to ensure we identified as many valuable and diverse data initiatives as possible.
During the second workshop, we built on the outcomes of the first data workshop to revise and concretize the department’s short-term data initiatives. In preparation, together with the internal data team, we identified the data initiatives that didn’t require additional data sources or infrastructure. We then facilitated in-depth discussions with department representatives to refine the scope and the expected results of each potential data initiative. At the same time, we assessed its short-term viability, identified its priority, and evaluated the workload and the required data sources. Wherever possible, we already defined the next steps that should be taken to kick off the data initiative.
In the third and final data workshop, we focused on the department’s remaining long-term data initiatives that required additional data sources or infrastructure. We discussed the scope of these initiatives with department representatives and defined the actions that could be taken to resolve any existing roadblocks. For some of those long-term initiatives, we defined alternatives providing an intermediate solution to mitigate the immediate urgency of the related data challenges. We finalized this data workshop by prioritizing all initiatives regarding the department’s needs.
This series of data workshops enabled us to identify numerous short-term and long-term data initiatives for each department, along with their prioritization, the estimated workload, and the required data sources. Those initiatives, when realized, will allow the NGO’s decision-makers to make informed choices, optimize day-to-day operations, and allocate resources more effectively.
The impact of those workshops proved to go far beyond the identification of impactful data initiatives, however. We gradually became aware of additional long-term benefits for our client's organization.
First, they clearly increased the bi-directional awareness between our client’s data team and the individual departments. In some data workshops, department stakeholders met with the data team for the first time to discuss the data they use to perform day-to-day operations (we regularly heard department representatives say, “Oh, do you do that too?"). The increased awareness of the data team’s scope and capabilities will have a profound long-term impact.
And while all data workshops were organized for each department individually, we frequently noticed an overlap between the identified initiatives. As some of those initiatives could be performed across departments, the workshops helped facilitate collaboration between departments, break down existing silos, and foster cooperation. That undoubtedly helped unlock the power of data within this NGO's organization, far beyond the original expectations.