Grazing the Open Data Skills Framework

Grazing the Open Data Skills Framework

Where are you on your Open Data journey?

From novice to expert, the Open Data Institute’s Open Data Skills Framework has evolved to help guide your Open Data learning experience. With everyone starting at the Explorer stage, learning is balanced so you gain skills and experiences without the fatigue of too much information.

As a trainer and foodie, this subtle tension was familiar; it whetted my appetite to explore a foodie approach to getting the best out of the Open Data Skills Framework.

Sitting comfortably? Let’s begin.

Explorers: an Open Data Explorer has a basic understanding of open data. They can define it, point to examples or case studies and explain how it can be used to create change.

Serving Suggestion

The Amuse Bouche

Focus on mini case studies

Explorers have just started on their open data journey. They may be enthusiastic or apprehensive, or somewhere in-between. New information and ideas may need to be integrated and mulled over.

For explorers, I recommend bite sized case studies to entice them to learn more and clear signposting to where to get more information.

  • The 24 of open data – how open data is changing how we live, work and learn
  • Open data in numbers – a look at open data adoption
  • Crouching tech, hidden data – the open data you use every day

Strategists: an Open Data Strategist is someone who integrates open data into a strategy or manages an open data project. They have the planning and management techniques to drive forward an open data initiative, and they understand the challenges inherent in this process.

Serving Suggestion

The Starter

Focus on Methodology

Strategists know the drill, now they want to deploy it. For strategists, I recommend tips on how to determine what will work for their strategy or project, and what won’t.

This is less about open data itself and more about managing the people, projects, processes and pitfalls that come with introducing new ways of thinking.

  • Open Data Policies and how to get them right
  • Black-box thinking with open data – experimenting your way to smoother adoption
  • Start with why – is Open Data really what you need?

Practitioners: Open Data Practitioners have the practical skills necessary to conduct basic operations on an open dataset. They get hands-on with the data, and are familiar with the tools and techniques necessary to manage and publish an open dataset.

Serving Suggestion

The Taster Plate

Focus on tooling and techniques

Practitioners may range from reluctant to enthusiastic adopters of Open Data, but they want to get the job done.

For practitioners, I recommend revealing what tooling and techniques are out there and what for, including what’s new, what’s hot and what’s not.

  • From understanding to deployment – getting to useful open data using CRISP-DM
  • Automate, Improve, Optimise – how to work smarter with open data
  • Quick and dirty – rapid techniques for open data insight

Pioneers: Open Data Pioneers apply their data knowledge to their sector to solve challenges. They can point to sector-specific case studies, identify future trends in the sector and understand the data challenges specific to their sector.

Serving Suggestion

The Pot Luck

Focus on future trends and sharing knowledge

Pioneers are veterans who’ve tackled the challenges of open data, so they are ideally placed to look at where new challenges and opportunities lie.

For pioneers, I recommend a cross-pollination of ideas, challenges and opportunities from other sectors. Here, a focused conversation and guided workshop around where open data challenges lie may encourage contributions from experts and build a shared understanding of challenges.

Suggestions From the provocative:

  • What has open data ever done for us?
  • What is your open data return on investment?
  • Open data – has it failed?

To the exploratory:

  • What next for open data after Brexit?
  • What lessons can open data learn from open science?

The Open Data Skills Framework provides an ideal opportunity for learners to assess where they are and where they want to be on their open data journey. It also provides a landscape for trainers to adapt, create and innovate around sharing open data skills and techniques.

I hope to deliver one or more of these sessions at the ODI summit and look forward to continuing my own open data journey. Where are you on your Open Data journey?

5 Tips From Wakefield Business Week: Thriving in the Northern Powerhouse

As a small business owner in Wakefield, a city in the Leeds city region, I was keen to get as much as possible out of the Wakefield Business Week.

Today’s F5 (Refresh) Your Digital & Creative Skills was on point. It hit the sweet spot between appealing to non-technical small and medium business owners and advocating for productivity the tech and digital sectors offer.

Here’s 5 tips to help business owners thrive in the Northern Powerhouse:

1. Collaborate
From large organisations like Google, Microsoft and BT to regional influencers like the LEP, White Rose credit union and locals like Wakefield Council and Cognitiv, there’s an abundant opportunity to collaborate and grow.

Councillor Jack Hemingway, made it clear that Wakefield Council’s business support team were ready and willing to help businesses in Wakefield thrive.
Tip: Don’t go it alone, collaborate.

2. Go Local
Wakefield has a wealth of digital and creative companies that end up working outside the region. By getting in touch with a membership organisation like Cognitiv, you get access to expertise on your doorstep. From next month, the last Friday of the month will be a casual breakfast drop-in at Unity Works. Who know who’ll you meet?

Dan Conboy of Cognitiv laid out the pillars of their mission o make Wakefield a thriving place for small and medium enterprises: Collaboration, Promotion, Representation. These, along with promoting Code Club, digital literacy and facing common challenges like skills and training, make Cognitiv a valuable addition to Wakefield.
Tip: Go local for great talent.

3. Think about the Cloud
Could the cloud and related technology help your business innovate and grow? Daniel Langton of Microsoft showed it’s not rocket science to transform your business, no matter it’s size, with technology.

Think about your vision for your business, are you:

  • Paying too much?
  • Working effectively?
  • Trapping business insights in legacy tools or paper?
  • Communicating quickly and effectively?
  • Giving clients and employees what they want?
  • Over or under covered for information security?

Tip: Think about how technology could help your business thrive.

4. Be Mobile Friendly
Google is the de-facto platform for search and mobile is now overtaking desktops and laptops. To thrive, you need a website that tells your story and sells your brand. More than that, your website needs to be mobile friendly to rocket up Google’s ranking.

Abbey from the Google digital garage covered a number of free tools for business that can help with everything search-related including SEO – search engine optimisation, SEM – search engine marketing and more. See Google’s business page for more.
Tip: Make yourself easy to find, especially on mobile devices.

5. Eat the Free Lunch
At the end of the talks, a trio of organisations: the LEP, Tech Partnership and Leeds Beckett University urged small businesses to take advantage of funding for training. This one is a no-brainer for any business that needs to improve their skills to grow.

Both the LEP and Tech Partnership will fund up to 50% (with some additional criteria) and Leeds Beckett University introduced a number of other organisations that can help with funding, research, training and more.
Tip: Fund your skills and grow, the money is out there.

What Next?
Firstly, a huge “thank you” to Wakefield First for organising the free event. I learned a lot and met several talented and lovely local people. Next for my small business? I’ll be joining Cognitiv, popping into for a free consultation at Google Garage Leeds and taking advantage of the Wakefield Business Week. See you at the next breakfast meeting?

Header Image: WakefieldFirst logo

Bursting out of the data bubble

Knowledge for everyone? Only if we brave communities outside our own


Seifenblase (Bulle de Savon, Soap Bubble) by Photo Clinique

Is your professional community your comfort zone? When was the last time you went outside it?

These questions and more have nagged at me for a few years. As a developer, project manager and all round data person, I was struck by how little my fellow “techies” understood. Not technology or how to do their jobs but how few really understood the businesses they worked in.

This will be a familiar story to anyone who’s worked a development role in certain types of organisations: Manager decide something needs to be done. They talk to business analyst who creates a spec. Who talks to systems analyst who create another spec. Who hands it over to project manager who gets a high level estimate, maybe from a tech team leader. Who parcels out the work.

This “Chinese whispers” method was how I go most of my work when I started out. It was no wonder tensions ran high when the people actually doing the job came to do a user acceptance test and declared: “No, doesn’t work”.

Agile was meant to change all that.

How? By bringing the people with the need in contact with the people with the skills. For this to work, you do need to speak enough of the same language. That means you need some understanding of how the business works and they need some understanding of  how the technology works.

What motivates the people you’re working with? What do they actually mean when they say “x”? Are you actually developing “y”? How realistic are their expectations? How realistic are yours?

To be fair, this isn’t limited to tech. Breaking down silos in any institution means playing outside your bubble, your team, your comfort zone.

These days, I work for myself. Mostly because it is a rare thing to find an organisation that wants you to work “with” not “for” them. One where you have autonomy, challenge, reward and support to be the best you, so they get your best work. So, these days, breaking out of my tech bubble isn’t about popping into other departments and spending time with them to understand what they do.

These days I go out of my data community comfort zone.

I pop into the Leeds Creative Timebank to meet creatives: artists, photographers, dance coaches to learn what they do, how they do it and in turn fine tune my language. This means I must keep translating “techie” concepts into useful, tangible tools that mean something and do something.

I speak with everyone: students, barbers, waiters, managers, farmers and for the next five days, enthusiastic readers and writers. Data, information and the knowledge that provides is for everyone, so why keep it to ourselves? Why make it such a complex, mythical thing, others can’t get as excited, inspired and buoyed up (but practical) as we are?

It helps that I’m fascinated by skillful competence and the potential for incorporating them into my practice. All in all, it makes me a better person, a better “techie” and boosts my understanding of how data can work for them.

Knowledge for everyone? Yes. As long as we don’t keep it to ourselves.

Speak the lingo: Changing the perception of IT with visual stories

Communication by Paul Shanks
Communication by Paul Shanks

Is perception reality?

When IT is perceived as a cost-centre staffed by introverts speaking a different language, persuasion and influence is, well, tricky.

In my experience, communication skills aren’t always a problem, language barriers are: A lack of domain knowledge, poor understanding of the wider business motivations and speaking the language we’re comfortable in but is incomprehensible outside our bubble. Changing the first two takes time but is a critical undertaking. You wouldn’t hire customer service, sales or accounting staff without ensuring they get trained on how your business works. Why have IT staff who only have a vague understanding?

That hurdle cleared, the barrier of communication remains. How can IT departments ensure everyone understands proposals, pitches, updates, requirements and other communications? How can they change the perception of IT from a department outside the business to one integrated into the heart of the business strategy and operations? How can they ensure that stakeholders understand what needs doing, when, why and by whom, how it will get done, where issues lie and what’s in it for them without retreating into our favoured language, jargon and buzzwords?

One tool is visual stories. With their emphasis on depicting a series of events in simple, clear visual form, visual stories help reduce information overload. By restricting the visuals to a single sheet, the focus is on de-cluttering to ensure your audience is guided to a specific conclusion.

Storytelling in the Age of Big Data – Strata Europe 2013 by Ann Wuyts (@vintfalken) for – CC By 2.0

This is a one-page visual story of telling stories with data science. The pay off of data science is front and centre: “Tell a story, make a difference”. Other compelling and supporting elements surround the central message. They are clear, uncluttered and written in jargon-free English.

Visual story of program today at #crowdsourcedcities @foundationrock by Jennifer Pahlka

Sticking to the one-page format, the visual story of crowd-sourced cities has similar elements but adds two things: size and colour.  Not only does this make the visual story eye-catching, it allows an increase in detail without clutter. One minor criticism is the catch-phrases and acronyms; using acronyms your audience doesn’t understand is alienating.

West Norwood Feast Story by Emily of via olizilla on flickr

This story is beautifully presented and deals with detail by adding separators and arrows. The audience are directed by the arrows and the timeline which ties the entire story together. Impacts are clearly highlighted and explained, while key takeaways are positioned next to relevant parts of the narrative.

These examples underline the importance of clarity in telling a compelling visual story. They follow the CAST criteria:

  • Content – Keep it relevant
  • Audience – Understand who the story is for
  • Story – Make it compelling, interesting and relevant to the audience
  • Tell – the words and images and how they are arranged

Will a visual story alone persuade your audience? No, but a story that’s relevant, addresses their needs and does so clearly is an ideal starting point to engagement and a deeper conversation. In a nutshell, communication.

What to do next:
Practice, practice, practice;
Read: Stories That Move Mountains: Storytelling and Visual Design for Persuasive Presentations