Long haul travel brings its advantages. On my second such professional trip in 2 weeks, I have time to reflect on why I proposed to blog for the Data & Analytics Club on Community for Data & Analytics within your organisation.
There are many moments in our lives where we experience – first hand – the positive impact of community, be it as an active participant and contributor, or as an observer. For some, their primary community may be their family and for those lucky to live near, their extended family. For others, it may be that group of friends from childhood or university or their first job. Some will find a sense of community walking into their local gym, where people are working towards a common goal, or likewise, in groups (physically or virtually) working towards a common social or political vision. We are part of vibrant online communities, many where we only know our fellow members by pseudonyms; yet we discuss, guide and collaborate – be it in a personal or professional capacity – on areas of common interest, enabling other members through our participation.
Community can be many forms, in multiple places, with a variety of members: it can be permanent or temporary. In today´s world, it is sometimes easy to forget community, and think we are not part of any or one. But all community requires is a group of people, with a common identity & interest, working towards a shared vision, with a willingness to collaborate – some being the enablers, others being the enabled. When eventually the enabled become the enablers, and the cycle of participatory growth begins, the community enters a phase of continuous evolution, assuring its longevity.
Our communities change over time; we pass through natural life stages influenced by location, school, employment, professional, political or social interests. But no matter where, and no matter with whom, human beings have a need for community, either incidentally or purposely. So how can we leverage this natural inclination to the betterment of Data & Analytics realisation, and how exactly can we enable a community vision within our organisation? Where there may be multiple stakeholders sponsoring, and multiple teams realising data value, for their specific business, country or function? This was exactly the scenario in Schneider Electric, where like any medium-large Enterprise, B.I. & Analytics “is everywhere”. I smile as I write “is everywhere”, as it sounds maybe uncontrolled and ungoverned. However, this is where I am certain we have a uniqueness in how B.I. & Analytics is organised at Schneider Electric. We have successfully, over the past 6.5 years, created a virtual map of our Data & Analytics competency across the company, introducing a level of participatory governance, through the concept of community: a group of like-minded professionals, with a common identity & interest in Data & Analytics, with an openness and willingness to collaborate, working towards a shared vision of data value realisation for Schneider Electric.
The Schneider Electric B.I. & Analytics Community has as its core ethos the community’s ability – as a network – to enable and nurture Schneider Analytics talent, identifying and promoting cross-company efficiencies in the B.I. & Analytics domain, while remaining organisation agnostic. Starting as a Customer Advisory Board of circa. 50 Senior Leaders from across the company in 2011, representative of our diverse business and country scope, it initially enabled alignment on technology usage, and synergy on global and local initiatives. We quickly recognised natural efficiencies for our business, removing redundancy of similarly based concurrent initiatives, identification of gaps in our data strategy, and creating a concept of ‘better together’ amongst key players in Data across the company. Over the next 3 years, the group evolved to include B.I. & Analytics Super Users, growing significantly and with more diversity in how they enabled, and were enabled, through the community.
There was one glaring potential point of failure at this time, and we recognised it before it became an issue: the community was founded and thus led by the IT Function; hence there was a natural risk that growth may be curtailed if members perceived the community to be pushing IT policies, in autocratic mode rather than enabling mode. And so we coined the term ‘organisation agnostic’, welcomed key players to our Leadership team from across the business, a Community Sponsor also from the business while hiring a Community Manager to help animate the community.
As a result, we doubled our membership between 2015 and 2017, and although we have now evolved to a large community of 2,500+ members, the success of the community has enabled us to become ‘a small village’ – where we can work ‘across borders’ in Schneider Electric, quickly onboard to meet our peer professionals internally, discuss our industry in an open and transparent way, challenge in a sanctuary for professionals working to the same objectives. This is enhanced through informal knowledge sharing, webinars, newsletters and discussion forums. All promoting Data & Analytics best practise, industry standards, visibility to our internal global initiatives, standards and processes we endorse; using the Enterprise social networking tools at Schneider Electric to discuss technology, people and process availability, and without question, also have some data fun.
But the community brings us even more as an organisation. With Industry commentary promoting the hybrid need of traditional IT skills combined with Operational Technology when seeking new hires, we recognise that as we continue to accelerate in the world of IoT and transformation of our businesses through Digitization, acquiring people with the right skills is getting more and more difficult in a competitive market. Add in the specific skills of Data & Analytics expertise, and we risk never hiring as we wait for this zenith of candidates in the market. But there is an answer, much closer to home, that we need to prepare for and take advantage of. Why do we invariably look outside our organisation for talent, when we could tap into the skills of those in our organisations today? You may tell me: they don’t have the right skills. But there are a variety of Knowledge, Skills and Abilities needed to successfully realise a Data & Analytics Strategy in any company, and there are ways to nurture and grow the needed skills across your organisation through a living community. For those of us in medium to large Enterprise, it is highly likely there is talent in our own organisations that can be nurtured into these roles. So how can we do this?
Two major achievements in recent years have shown, first hand, the value of community to our company for Analytics Talent Management. In 2016/2017, working with the HR Department, we introduced a full suite of Development Competencies for Data & Analytics resources across the company, and a new job code specific to Data Science. This encourages our Talent Management Strategy for key roles, enabling Data & Analytics staff to evaluate themselves, and be evaluated, according to the competencies relevant to their role, defining growth strategies for the coming 1-2 years. In 2017, in addition, a community project team joined together to define Training Paths for Data & Analytics at Schneider. With 4 distinct training curriculums containing a multitude of training courses now available on the internal training site of Schneider Electric, community members can evolve and hone their skills in the industry, enabling individual contributor talent management on a day to day basis.
Wondering what other initiatives we could have in the pipeline? Is there anything more we can do to nurture and grow our analytics talent? Well, our latest planned innovation, to further grow our internal talent in 2018/2019, is to introduce a secondment program for Data & Analytics Staff across Schneider Electric, where skilled resources can temporarily reassign to other parts of the company bringing their unique vision and skills to a myriad of projects. This will enable opportunities to both the community members and the various Data & Analytics initiatives around the company, to take value and make value of the wealth of intellectual capital in our existing internal resources. Meanwhile, our community is also planning a full week of Analytics dedicated onsite training later this year, welcoming global community members, complementing the virtual training curriculums already available.
So, what do you think: Was this a new concept for you or is it already tried and tested in your organisations? Why not take a moment to reflect on your company and its Data & Analytics Community, and consider?
-Is it formally defined, or is it an informal network today?
-Is it physical, located in your company within a specific location? Or does it extend organisational and geographical boundaries?
-Which works best for your organisation – do you need to change either the formality or informality, physical or virtual approach to promote the Data & Analytics Mission of your organisation?
-What is your role in the community – are you the enabler, the enabled or do you need to ‘up your game’ to assure the longevity of Data & Analytics in your organisation – beyond the hype, beyond the key projects being implemented today?
Considering what exists in your organisation today, what could be enabled through evolving a Data & Analytics Community, to virtually connect data experts across your organisation, hone your existing – and attract new – talent? Any maybe, like our B.I & Analytics Community at Schneider Electric, you will discover a new way to leave a legacy of Data & Analytics foundations in your Enterprise – beyond organisation, geographic and demographic boundaries.
By: Una Madigan Shortt, Enterprise BI & Analytics Director, Schneider Electric
With presence in over 100 countries, 2017 revenue of €24.7bn and 144k+ employees globally, Schneider Electric is leading the Digital Transformation of Energy Management and Automation in Homes, Buildings, Data Centers, Infrastructure and Industries. Schneider is the undisputable leader in Power Management – Medium Voltage, Low Voltage and Secure Power, and in Automation Systems.
Responsible for driving the successful delivery of Enterprise Business Intelligence @ Schneider Electric, with 14,000 users globally across 4 technologies, Una Shortt directs an evolving technology toolkit providing E2E Delivery of BI applications aligned to Strategic Programs, while enabling regional, functional, operational BI teams by providing internal consultation, global governance and technology provisioning.
With her innate innovative, inclusive and collaborative methods, Una was the founder of a virtual network of BI & Analytics staff in Schneider in 2011 described in this blog, resulting in a vibrant community of Pockets of Excellence (current membership 2,500+ in Q2 2018) transforming how we work in the BI & Analytics domain across the company: internal networking, alignment on best in class technologies, creating synergies, enabling community webinars, publishing global content newsletters, enabling application reuse and scalability with staff development through global training paths (500+ subscribers over 4 main curriculum) and competency setting.