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3 posts from June 2016

20 June 2016

Wearable tech: A solution looking for a problem?

Since wearable technology first emerged about three or four years ago, it has quickly moved from sci-fi territory to everyday use. According to a survey we have just carried out with more than 2,000 working adults in the UK:

  • 86% own a smartphone
  • 20% own a fitness tracker such as Fitbit
  • 17% own a smartwatch.

Clearly, smart devices are taking off for consumers. And for employers, that’s an extremely attractive prospect – but so far, the use of wearables at work has remained stubbornly consistent. The data collected from wearable technology is of huge potential value to businesses if (and it’s the biggest of ifs) you can persuade employees to share their data – and our survey shows that that’s something people are reluctant to do.

We asked participants in our survey if they’d be willing to share personal data from a smartphone or smartwatch with their employer. In general, they were fairly comfortable with sharing unchanging ‘background information’ (58% said they’d share their marital status, for example) but less willing to share information about their personal behavior (only 31% would share details of how they use social media).

The participants’ feeling changed, though, when they were offered something in return for their data. When we asked if they’d be happy to share health-related information (such as exercise levels and blood pressure) and work-related information (such as commuting time) with their employer in exchange for a smartwatch, 46% said they’d take up the offer. But there were marked differences in the responses from different age groups; those aged between 18 and 34 were far more likely to take up the offer (59%) said yes, compared to the over 55s (just 30% said yes).

And if the information was collected in order to improve their working lives – by addressing stress or changing work hours to better suit their lifestyle – respondents were more likely to agree to sharing information. 68% of 18-to-34 year olds agreed, while around half of the 55+ age group said they were ‘slightly persuaded’.

This comes down to trust. 65% of participants in the survey think technology has a real role to play in their health and wellbeing and 61% are keen for their employer to take an active role in their wellbeing. But 38% don’t trust their employer to use the data for their benefit.

The key, though, is this: 25% of those that don’t trust their employer would be willing to share their data for an incentive such as increased pay or flexible working hours.

The secret to wearables isn’t that much of a secret, we just need to listen: Employees need to get something out of it too. Employees are far more likely to be willing to hand over their data if they get something in return, especially if that something is extra benefits. 47% of all employees said they’d share their information if flexible working was the result, while 38% would share it in exchange for free health screening.

If wearable tech is going to make the step from the consumer market to the workplace, employees need to be persuaded that there’s everything to gain and little to lose. That means that devices have to be simple to operate, properly integrated with other IT used by the business, non-intrusive and secure. And above all, that the employee gains at least as much from using it as their employer. If we can meet that challenge then the future is bright for wearables at work.

If you would like to discuss these issues, or the impact of emerging technology on your industry, then please get in touch with Euan Cameron.

by Anthony Bruce Pharmaceutical and Life Sciences Leader

14 June 2016

Chief Data Officer: Is Data Governance more than just data quality?

I can still remember the day when I felt like I had the ultimate brain wave and realised that the answer to many business problems of today was simply to get the right quality of data to make the right business decisions.

Right data…right time…right decision was something that has stuck in my mind for many years.

But the past few years has been very interesting. I've watched organisations struggle to get the “right” focus on data quality. Struggle to get buy-in from the board. Struggle to get people within the organisation to give it the right attention.

What I've learned is that data governance is a much broader topic. More importantly I've seen that adopting this broader view has helped to get data quality back on the agenda. But more specifically, this is helping to put data quality in its proper place… both in terms of prioritisation… and also in understanding the real benefits that a data focus can have on your business.

A well-structured data quality project has always been useful to identify where your data actually sits in an organisation and how it flows through the business. But this knowledge can be used to do so much more than simply identify who might own the data, or determine what reports rely on it. The project can also help an organisation to understand where confidential or sensitive data may be used… and so be useful for compliance and protecting yourself from external threats.

At a recent PwC data forum, three challenges were debated:

  1. What do companies need to do to protect their data?
  2. What rights do consumers have over their personal data and what responsibilities do companies have?
  3. What can companies do to realise the value in their data?

As I listened to the debate it became very clear to me that a well-structured data governance programme will allow all of these issues to be addressed within the same framework. Indeed, one of my clients who has adopted this broader approach finds their new-found knowledge invaluable for every change management programme… knowing who is impacted… and what systems.

So where does this leave data quality?

Well, I think it now sits firmly within a family of issues, all sitting within a common data governance framework. The challenges of security, privacy, data retention, compliance with regulation can all be brought together under a common objective… ensuring that our data is properly governed in all aspects of your business.

And what might this mean for your business?

Well, maybe it’s time to take a look at what projects you have underway and see if you can realise some efficiency gains or improve the effectiveness of each programme.

Whatever it may mean for you, there is no doubt that a joined up data governance programme is what’s needed to succeed in this fast moving, digital world.

If you would like to discuss these issues, or the impact of emerging technology or data and analytics on your industry, then contact our Data & Analytics team.

06 June 2016

Why it makes sense to put analytics in the hands of everyone

Self-service business intelligence (SSBI) – where the responsibility for performing analytics on data is in the hands of the user rather than centralised within IT – is rather like the first time you learn to ride a bike; you want to do it, and it makes sense to do it, but it’s difficult to make it work in practice.

In theory, SSBI is becoming more workable and desirable than ever before. Analytics and data visualisation tools are widely available and are becoming increasingly easy to use for the informed user. The days when the necessary technical and analytical skills were the domain of specialists are coming to an end – digital natives are coming through the ranks of organisations and they’re excellent candidates for SSBI.

At the same time, many organisations are wanting to push away from a centralised BI approach. Given the rate of consolidation in most sectors, a truly centralised BI infrastructure is a distant memory for many organisations. There’s also the question of a growing workload; IT departments are often seen as the bottleneck in the production of valuable data analysis; given the power of the tools available and the connectivity of organisations, it increasingly seems a little prehistoric to refer BI analytics to the IT department as a matter of routine.

So if SSBI is possible, and if it’s what organisations want, what’s holding them back?

More often than not, organisations are stopping short of a full SSBI approach and are compromising with a hybrid approach – distributed BI – where analytics are produced within the business units where they’re needed. But this in itself brings risks – distributed BI encourages the development of diverse BI systems and inconsistent processes. There’s a higher risk of poor data seeping into the organisation and inferior information coming out. And of course, decisions made on poor quality data or incorrect analysis can have catastrophic implications for organisations.

Perhaps the better question would be: Is SSBI right for your business?

I think it can be, as long as it’s managed well. And that means not only having the right tools in place, and the right training for those end users who may not have the skills they need – it also means appropriate governance and controls, and a corporate culture that fully supports SSBI. It means a centralised and well-governed data regime (including a central team responsible for controlling the quality of your data) and a network of BI ‘champions’ throughout the organisation to help and support end users when they need it.

This doesn’t come cheap. SSBI can bring enormous benefits – from cost savings to operational efficiency and valuable competitive insight – but doing it properly requires a significant investment in terms of systems and data control. It also means a huge cultural shift within the organisation, where people take responsibility for BI but understand and buy into the governance that surrounds it. But perhaps, for your business, the time is right.

If you would like to discuss these issues, or the impact of emerging technology or data and analytics on your industry, then contact our Data & Analytics team.