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5 ‘stupid questions’ that businesses asked us about data that weren’t stupid at all

Since launching in March 2020, our TORCH Business Advisory team have worked with 30+ Scottish based businesses to help them understand and work towards their data driven goals. Not everyone has been trained to think like a data solutions expert, and so it’s not surprising that these organisations have relied on our service to get answers to technical questions that have often been hard to come by.

As testament to the support we provide, our TORCH team promote a case study for each completed project. Input from our client plays a large part in these studies, and there’s one reoccurring theme that’s beginning to stand out: that our TORCH Solution Architects were incredibly patient and non-judgmental about the (quote) ‘stupid questions’ each organisation had.

However, the questions people are asking are ones that our TORCH experts are being asked time and time again. They’re far from stupid, rather, helping our clients getting the basics right is very important. A big part of that is sharing knowledge to help them on their data journeys.

In honour of No Stupid Questions Day, we’ve pulled together some of the most popular ‘stupid questions’ that people are embarrassed to ask, but really should!

Q1.  How do we determine what kind of data is important for us and what isn’t?

A. Perhaps don’t think of it as data, but more of the information you are using every day.

The most important information and data will relate to the whole lifecycle of your products and/or services; where they come from, costs, who is buying, who you want to buy them, competitor information. Think about the questions you need to answer to move your business forward.

We recommend you start by taking a look at our complimentary Master Your Data Guide to understand the data types most businesses will need. The Data Lab also has a great introduction to Data for Business Leaders, a free online learning course that includes a helpful workbook.

Q2. When is the right time for a business to hire a Data Scientist?

A. For a Data Scientist, the biggest challenge is access to data. They should be part of a wider data team, and it’s important to ensure you have significant amounts of good quality data before bringing somebody on board. The data you want them to work with should be built up over a period of time and you should have a reasonable understanding of what business challenges that data could help you solve.

Q3. When do we need to have in-house teams vs. outsource the functionality?

A. Working with external partners can help you get moving more quickly and the work can then be transitioned in-house. For that to be successful, requires knowledge, trust and, most of all, collaboration between all involved (whether in-house or external).
You don’t need to be an expert, but you or someone in your business needs to know enough about the capabilities any external partner is providing to you.

Q4. How do we phase this implementation into our company without completely overwhelming our team with things that are scary and new?

A. Start with a small tangible example (such as the model in our Data Distil case study) and run a pilot project on it. This is a helpful way to bring your team along on the journey; a positive example of how using data in your business can be demonstrated.

Focus on learning through the pilot and using the outcomes to refine your plan for going into the next stage. Once people begin to understand things, it often adds a really exciting new dimension to their work and opens up all sorts of new opportunities.

Take a look at some of the TORCH Case Studies to see how other organisations have taken their early steps with data. There is lots of great information and help available from the Data Skills for Work programme, including a wide range of training options in their Skills Portal.

Q5. How do you recruit someone technical that is suitable to the business, without being blinded by science? – Each one comes with their own preference of languages, approach, interests.

This can be difficult, because getting the right person is important, especially if they are your first data and/or technology hire.
We recommend you pay attention to non-technical skills and experiences – communication skills (e.g. explaining technical ideas to non-technical people, open and keen to share knowledge), ability to pick-up different technologies quickly (the technology landscape is constantly shifting), flexibility, etc.

If you know the technologies you are using/want to use, look for someone with experience in using those, ideally in organisations with some similarities to yours. Working in IT in a large corporation is very different to working in a small business, and it’s a consideration that is often overlooked.

DO YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS (remember, there are no stupid ones) the TORCH team can help you with? Get in touch


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