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Dear Corporate America: Data isn’t Tech

Before going future-forward, take a step back and get data-informed before going full-on data-driven.

Pssst: Data isn’t tech.

Looks like Data didn't know that data isn't tech too
GIF from GIPHY

Certain companies are self-identifying / branding with buzzwords like “big data” and “big tech” to portray themselves as future-forward behemoths with “data-driven” cultures.

Why?

Because. They. Use. Data.

And because of that, it totally makes them technologically advanced! Right?

RIGHT?!

Who knows! Maybe the company has its own super-duper-MAX2100-data-driven-culture campaign, and it ALMOST runs like a well-oiled robot? Or doesn’t? Or perhaps maybe they’re working on repairing rusty ROI?

Nonetheless, this post will discuss why data isn’t tech, why it’s essential to know the difference, and where to go from there once you do.

Off to the future, we go!

First, some clarification.

So, what makes me qualified to explain the difference between tech and data?

Professionals like myself are (sometimes) called Citizen Developers or Project Managers because we analyze data, processes, and more to solve business problems. Citizen development is a specialization in project management. Plus, my bachelor’s degree in Applied Management (not the same as Business Management) was statistics and data analytics heavy. I also get pinged for data science analytics roles (none have been 100% WFH — hint hint). Also, check out my portfolio!

Get data-informed first.

data isn't tech but they work hand-in-hand
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To understand why data isn’t tech, we need to understand what data is.

Data comes in different formats (like numbers and letters) and is then compiled in databases, spreadsheets, and data visualization tools.

To simplify, we analyze data with tools and technology. Then, once we can analyze data because the tools helped to make it digestible, we gain new insights.

Wild, right?

However, before we can analyze data, it has to go through different methods and processes to ensure that it’s accurate, usable, categorized (correctly), etc. And we do that through “tech” or, to be more transparent, a computer.

So, what’s up with data-driven everything?

GIF from GIPHY.

Simple misinterpretation, perhaps? (Nope!)

First, we need to keep in mind that people, in general, are change-averse.

Then, with that in mind, what frequently happens during project implementation (*ahem* going full-on data-driven) when an entire company (or a majority) isn’t on board?

The project fails.

But before a project fails, we must remember what happens before that…when there are goals/deadlines/benchmarks to hit. Perhaps some team members need to learn something NEW too. And it needs to be implemented quickly because of deadlines!

That’s a total disregard for data. It’s not data-driven.

And the kicker…

Projects fail more often than not, and becoming data-driven is worse!


Note: the quiz is a Google Form. You need a Google account to take it and see your results.

Can you guess the percentage of orgs in 2022 still struggling to become data-driven? You might be surprised!


Also, the Standish Group reports that about 31% of software projects are successful, and 46% of those return a high value. (I’ll stop this rant and get back to the point.)

In my humble opinion, I think people mistake data for technology because we usually need tools to compile, clean, and aggregate data into something measurable. Then, once it is, business analysts and other professionals translate that information into more meaningful insights, models, and more.

GIF from GIPHY

Here is where the confusion happens — the processes and methods used to transform raw data before it goes into visualization tools — are technical and perhaps more so for people who aren’t software or data engineers.

Then, if those same people are tasked to create a data-driven culture but don’t understand the difference between data and tech — it’s apparent.

Even if they can’t see it themselves.

And that can impact company culture for the worse. Especially if most of your employees are privy to the difference between “tech” and “data.”


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Disclaimer: an AI helped me write part of this post (and it still required A LOT of editing — nonetheless, thank you, You.com, for creating YouWrite! When published, I’ll write about the experience at the end of the series and place the link → here ←. In the meantime, read my 5-part Innovation Series, the first post in this AI series, or learn about different types of AI.)


What’s the AI tool’s perspective?

There is a big difference between tech and data; bosses, managers, change agents, executives, directors, and company leaders must understand this before launching a data-driven culture or digital transformation initiative

Tech is about the tools we use to create or access information. Data is the information itself. So when we talk about “big data” or “data-driven cultures,” we are really talking about using data as an input for decision-making. 

Many organizations assume that because they have access to lots of data, they must be doing things in a “data-driven way.” However, simply having access to data does not mean you are using it effectively. To be truly data-driven, you need three key components:

  1. Good quality data
  2. People who know how to analyze and use that data
  3. Set processes to gain insights faster

Without all three of these components, it is very easy for management teams to misinterpret the difference between tech and data – potentially disastrous for their organization’s transformation efforts.

[Comment from the author (the human, me, Jarred): WOW! That’s a pretty impressive explanation!]

So why is it essential to know the difference between tech and data?

First, the business landscape is growing increasingly complex and more competitive by the day. And with that, as professionals, we need to continually skill up to keep pace to ensure our own “continuity” (see what I did there?)

GIF from GIPHY

As we develop our skills in an increasingly digital business landscape, some might find ourselves helping with new digital transformation initiatives. Like helping our bosses make the company more “data-driven.”

And with that, it is crucial to note that data-driven doesn’t mean tech-driven.

(Personally, I think it should be renamed “people-driven” or “employee-driven” transformation because we input the data and transform it into something meaningful.)

So, to reiterate:

It’s not tech that will do that.

It. Is. People.

It’s not data that will do that.

It’s… (say it out loud with me) …PEOPLE!

Who leads those digital data-driven-everything transformations?

BOSSES! (well, perhaps in a project management sense, but that’s not the point!)

ROBOTS!

AI!

MACHINE LEARNING!

TECHNOLOGY!

DATA!

PEOPLE!

What do we need to help us get on the same page to make our companies embrace data-driven digital transformation initiatives?

TECHNOLOGY

DATA!

PEOPLE (who understand the difference between technology and data)!

The AI catRobOtAIpErsOn says: "Data isn't tech"
GIF via GIPHY

What is the AI’s perspective on the above section?

Data-driven doesn’t mean tech-driven. We need to use data in everything we do, from marketing and sales to product development and business operations. As professionals, we must understand how data can be used to drive our business decisions.

Fortunately, there are plenty of resources to help us learn more about data analytics and other aspects of the digital world. For example, online courses like Coursera or edX can give you a good foundation in data analytics and related topics. Vendor-sponsored courses are available on subjects like big data management or cloud computing if you want something more specific.

Keep it simple

The ability to categorize differences like the ones above helps us gain a better perspective vs. overcomplicating things. Heck, it could even help us be more precise when explaining a change initiative. In addition, simply understanding the difference allows us to communicate complex scenarios more efficiently and deliver that information to less tech-savvy or change-resistant cohorts.

Plus, the more succinct you communicate your plan, the more your cohorts will be more apt to understand things better. Who knows? A more precise understanding may help them be more confident in sharing their input/feedback. After all, you made it easier for them to do so. (Gold star!)

In closing, now you know that data isn’t tech!

As you can see, there’s a colossal difference between data and tech, and having a better understanding of the differences allows us to take a step back, reflect, and better pitch our data-driven approach(es) while becoming more effective change agents!

Ultimately, it all comes down to understanding and communicating in a more human vs. technical way. This also can help us be more intentional about using technology for good, understanding customers, and more.

At the end of the day, we are just people trying to optimize our company’s decision-making capabilities to solve problems better. And be able to participate in the change process!

Leave your comments below on how your company has successfully transitioned toward being more data (vs. “tech”) driven!

Some reports on this site were excerpted from publicly available information (research firms, third parties, public health organizations, etc.). This website and blog are for informational purposes only. Reports, reviews, and experiences on this website are opinions expressed by the author and do not purport the opinions or views of others. Any tools or technology mentioned are provided for informational purposes only and do not constitute an endorsement or affiliation. Please use your discretion and consider factors like compatibility, security, and functionality before adopting any tool or technology. Lastly, this post/page does not establish a Jarred Andrews-client relationship. For additional info, please refer to my disclaimer. Please review the copyright, privacy policy, and terms pages for information on how to properly download, share, or copy content from my site. If you cannot find what you need, please reach out.
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