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Exclusive: Qlik's Sharryn Napier talks employee empowerment through data analytics
Wed, 17th Aug 2016
FYI, this story is more than a year old

Sharryn Napier, Qlik's vice president and regional director for Australia and New Zealand, has to be ready for change. The company deals with masses of data and advises companies how to act on those insights. With technology evolving so quickly - some technologies stick around, others disappear, others change completely.

It's imperative that our skills must keep up as well, or risk failure. Napier says that technology is so fast, that keeping people skilled enough to match it is a difficult task.

"The rapidity of change in the technology sector has made the upgrading of skills a premium currency for employees and a massive challenge for employers who face a periodic issue of either recruiting for new specialists or training existing employees. Take for example the recent surge in interest in data scientists, recently dubbed the sexiest job of the 21st century," Napier explains.

She says that data science is one of the major growth areas, particularly in businesses where data drives operations.

"Essentially the data scientist's key role is around the extraction of knowledge and insights from data – a role that is becoming increasingly valued in today's data-driven businesses. The problem of course is that data scientists are in scarce supply, and expensive," she explains.

She also believes that the new generation of graduates have different experiences and expectations of their technology, as "They want to engage with technology solutions in the workplace that are intuitive, simple to use and that add value to their day-to-day work," she explains.

The solution? Napier believes that if all employees were data scientists, it could be a huge driver for what she calls 'self-service visual analytics'.

"The concept of an intuitive, self-service visual analytics platform also caters to the evolving way the next generation of data literate knowledge workers wants to operate. It is a way of working that encourages mass collaboration and that does not restrict access to information, data or analysis – a complete democratisation of data," she explains.

So how do organisations deal with the digital, data and analytics economies? Napier cites the 2015 MIT Sloan Management Review survey, which found that 43% of companies think finding the right analytics skills is a challenge, but only one in five has tried to source the right talent.

"Increasingly, companies are shifting their thinking about what it takes to leverage mainstream data usage across their organisations. Rather than looking at it being driven chiefly by a role such as a data scientist, a more holistic approach is being taken. One that seeks to empower everyone in the business by providing them with the right kind of intuitive, self-service visual analytics platform to discover the real story hidden within the depths of their data," she says.

Napier believes that taking a broad approach to analytics using people as its asset. She recommends spreading analytics out amongst many users, even regular employees, through internal and external data inputs.

"This broad-based approach maximises collaboration, encourages a much higher level of data literacy and, critically, harnesses the insight and experience of the company's greatest single asset; its people. Consider, for example, the ability for a supply chain executive to analyse the impact of weather patterns on supply chain performance. Or a retail analyst being able to discover that a 5% increase in customer footfall and sales was the result of a rare Pokémon located close to their retail outlet," she explains.

It all comes back to one key point. How can organisations promote data literacy in their workplace to make sure their employees are armed with the right knowledge, particularly in the job marketplace? Napier explains that it's not just about the skills, but the culture too. Creating an analytics culture through empowerment and knowledge is the best way to shape the business.

"The key is in empowering a broad base of users across the organisation with the ability to analyse, understand and draw actionable insights from a wide array of data sources. Restricting access to data and visual analytics fails to take into account that the greatest depth of knowledge and potential within any company lies within all of its employees, not just a select few."