If you’re the leader of a Data Team, chances are your clients are constantly demanding more and more services as time goes on. Your team members might be working longer days to keep up, and still you might not be able to meet all of the needs of your customers.
While the typical approach would be to try and get funding for more team members, there are other things that could be done first.
Check 1: What are the patterns of demand for your Data Team?
Despite being a numbers-driven group of people, it’s uncommon for Data Teams to actually analyze their own pattern of demand. Some questions to think about are:
- How often do new requests come in?
- Who do they come in from?
- What is the nature of the requests?
- What is the urgency and target turn-around time for the requests?
- How long does it take to clarify the request?
- How long does it take to deliver a result?
Getting a picture of your demand patterns will help you better understand what’s driving the level of busy-ness in your Data Team. It may point you in the direction of converting repeat requests into automated self-service reports. Or it may highlight those customers that have a chronic pattern of last-minute urgent requests, and in these situations you might benefit from proactively checking in with them once a week to see what might be coming up.
Or, at minimum, having this information will be your first point of evidence that your Data Team could benefit from having more team members.
Check 2: Is your team working efficiently?
As the leader of the Data Team you might be convinced that the team is working as efficiently as possible. But think about how you might go about convincing others. Some questions to consider are:
- How many work hours does it take to respond to requests from your customers?
- Does it take some team members less time than others to get things done? If so, what skills are teachable and transferrable between team members? Or, are there any team members that just aren’t pulling their weight on the team?
- How much time does your team spend doing “disaster recovery”, meaning situations where some bad numbers have been released by the team, and they are scrambling to correct the numbers? If this is significant, then implementation of quality control measures like the Consistency Check can help.
- What’s the percentage of time that your Data Team is doing mundane and repetitive work? This may point to the need to further streamline and automate your processes, and/or offer standardized self-serve reports for frequently requested information.
- How many iterations (back and forth with the customer) does it take to complete a request? Are there opportunities to increase efficiency, by slowing down at the beginning, and getting clear on the what, when, why and how of the request?
- What is the pattern of work hours for your Data Team members? Are they constantly working late, and if so, is it measured anywhere?
By attempting to answer these questions you, as the Data Team leader, may find that you have some easy opportunities to pursue before trying to seek funding to grow your team. Or alternatively, by answering these questions you will have the evidence to show that your team is working as efficiently as possible.
Check 3: When the Data Team can’t respond to requests, what does this cost your organization?
It’s very rare for a Data Team to keep track of the requests they can’t get to, which is a shame, because this can be invaluable information when thinking about expanding the team.
At minimum, a central log of requests can be set up, to track all requests that are made of your Data Team. The log should capture 1) requests that were accepted and delivered, 2) requests that the Data Team couldn’t respond to, and 3) requests that were accepted, but have been delayed by more than a couple of weeks.
Then, as the leader of the Data Team you could follow up with a sample of your customers that had unmet needs in the past year, and work with them to estimate the cost of not having that information. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy – even just a back of the envelope calculation is better than nothing. You may need to be creative, but you could consider the cost of making the wrong decision, or the cost of an adverse situation unfolding because of lack of awareness.
Pulling it all together, you now should know the pattern of your demand, the efficiency of your Data Team, and you should also have a rough idea of what it costs your organization when you can’t respond to requests. This will be the type of evidence that your leadership team can use to make an informed decision regarding whether to expand your Data Team or not.
Note: What is a Data Team?
When we refer to “Data Teams” it’s a catch-all for groups of technical, statistical, and subject-matter domain experts that are involved in providing information to support their organization. These teams are sometimes called “Business Intelligence”, “Decision Support”, or “Information Management”, but they can also be internal consultants such as “Operations Analysts”, “Strategic Information” or “Research”. Many of these concepts equally apply to teams of Data Scientists.