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Ready or not, here it comes: A new approach to kickstarting data science innovation
Richard Ramsden, Head of Data Science - Innovation Incubator, AkzoNobel and Barry Hodgson, Director of Strategy, National Innovation Centre for Data
Innovating, using data science, is hitting the mainstream, with companies looking to gain business insight through data across all sectors. Typical outcomes include generating new efficiencies and creating new revenue opportunities by applying data skills to business problems. Increasingly, case studies illustrating these successes, from predictive maintenance to new data-driven products and services, are revealed by the market leaders and. To compete, everyone else needs access to data science capabilities.
But there is a problem: the ‘access’ part. Often, the skills needed are highly specialised and can be very hard to find, making them expensive. So how do you understand the skills you need without already having some skills in the area?
One solution is to engage with external consultants. This will address your problem and apply the necessary skill-set, although you’ll have to set aside an outsourcing budget and accept the potential of future dependence. However, the major downside is that when the consultants hand over the deliverable and leave the premises, you’re on your own. Support for your shiny new data analytics dashboard is one thing but do you really understand what is happening under the covers, serving up this insight? Could you deploy and scale this knowledge in a different area of the company if you don’t know how it works?
The Data Science team in AkzoNobel’s Innovation Incubator wanted a different approach; a partner who could help tackle business problems more flexibly. This open mindset led to a different solution to this data dilemma, collaboration with the National Innovation Centre for Data (NICD).
The NICD model addresses your business problems by upskilling your existing workforce to understand better how to utilise your data. They bring a team of deeply qualified - PhD & MSc-data scientists with skills ranging over wrangling, analytics, machine learning and visualisation (to name but a few). The collaborative project leaves you with a result you understand, built from the ground up and allows you to continue developing inside your organisation. You start to understand the capabilities you need and how to develop your team. In short: the experts at NICD mentor and upskill your team to create your solution, helping to retain knowledge (and outcomes) in-house.
It is important to understand the type of project and outcomes required when determining which partnership model will be most effective for you
Partnering with NICD on several projects, AkzoNobel has increased its understanding of the data skills needed to execute projects. This on-the-project learning means internal data teams can be formed by developing existing employees’ skills and knowledge. This collaborative model delivers a different way to tackle the data capabilities gap in your organisation.
It is important to understand the type of project and outcomes required when determining which partnership model will be most effective for you. More traditional consultancy models will be vital to delivering new data science at scale, whereas the NICD approach will better prepare you to understand the skills required inside your company.
In the future, the new battleground will understand where best to apply these different consultancy strategies to better prepare you for what is coming: harnessing data to kickstart innovation, deliver at scale and find new ways to gain market share.