data analytics community
May 12, 2022

How to create a Data Analytics Community in your organisation

By Tristan Mobbs

Continuing our theme of considering better ways of working, let’s consider how to build a data analytics community. Many organisations want to establish communities of practice or other structures with a similar aim. Fostering best practice & collaboration across what are often analysts working in different parts of a corporation.

So, I am delighted to welcome back guest blogger Tristan Mobbs to share his experience. As you’ll see below, Tristan took up the challenge of setting up such a community. In this post he shares 3 tips that helped him succeed.

Regular readers will recall that Tristan is a practicing analyst & data translator. He blogs regularly on LinkedIn and has shared with us on topics including being passionate, data storytelling & data quality. I’m delighted to share again his practitioner perspective. This time on the topic of building such a community of analysts.

How to get started on a Data Analytics Community

A data analytics community can bring real value to people across your organisation, but how do you set one up? What challenges will you face? And how can you make it as successful as possible?

I learnt a lot from setting up a data analytics community in my last role and here are the top 3 areas I recommend focusing on to make it a success.

1) Identify your content and your audience

This is the first step, what is your community for?

Starting out I was unsure which it was, was it for the technically capable people in the business to get into the technical details of coding and share their knowledge or was it to expand the business capability around data analytics. That is to try and get people in the business more aware of what data analytics can do and the benefits that it can bring to their roles.

In the end the second option was the big winner, I believe the biggest benefit of the community is by bringing both the technical and business teams together. To help share understanding between the two groups. This allows your technical colleagues to understand business challenges in greater depth and allows the business to understand what is possible with the data they have and the challenges faced by the technical teams.

The biggest gains from the community were when people shared what they had been working on or the challenges they faced. This really helped bring the community to life. A group of people coming together to share their experiences and to help each other solve problems. We were able to showcase great work and open people’s eyes to what is possible. We were also able to solve some tricky technical problems. Overall having people from both technical and business backgrounds meant that the understanding of each other’s problems was far greater and the meetings often led to further conversations and problems being solved.

2) Find your supporters

This is the key to whether the community will be a success or not, identify your biggest supporters early and engage with them a lot. They will have some great ideas on what they find valuable and can provide both positive and negative feedback. Supporters will help promote your community and will advocate for it across the organisation.

These people are also the key for when you reach the next stage of making it visible. Your supporters will engage and promote that content so it feels and looks like a community, not just one person shouting into the void. Without these people your community isn’t a community, it could just be a training session.

Ultimately the community isn’t about you, communities only exist through a group of people coming together. While they need facilitation they rely on the strength of the contributions of others

3) Make it visible

Yammer, Teams, Slack, whatever communication software your company has, utilise it. Set up schedules and plans of what to post. Share links when you have found something useful. Get those key supporters posting too. This allows others to join in, when they see that community growing and people being active, they feel inclined to get involved. This helps to encourage others to share their knowledge, and ultimately the community continues to grow.

The biggest value of the community is being able to pool that knowledge and to provide support to each member. This only happens through people sharing both their successes and their challenges. Some of the biggest learnings in our community were solved when people shared their challenges and then had a range of solutions suggested back to them by other members.

We used a range of types of content that enabled people to engage how they wanted and people joined or engaged from a wide range of business areas. From 5-minute videos on a particular topic, to sharing a link to a useful site or a quick tip on how to use Excel more effectively. All of these things added value to at least one person. The more visible you make your community the more chance it grows. Be consistent too, it will take time to build that momentum.

Summarising what you need to build a data analytics community

  1. Identify your communities’ purpose – share how it will help the business
  2. Find key advocates and supporters – this helps you build the foundation and get feedback
  3. Share, share and share some more – the more visible it is the more chance of people getting involved.

If you do all of these things and are consistent and deliberate about them, then your community has a good chance of success.

Many thanks to Tristan for sharing his simple and practical tips. I hope at least one of his points gives you something that you can put into action. I know many data leaders have plans or are making progress at building similar communities or academies. If you have seen success, what worked for you? I’d love to hear from other data leaders with such practical experience to share.