Throughout the academic summer, across September and now heading into November, the DDRC’s Attitudes to Data Research team has been workshopping all across the country, to uncover what the UK’s workforce has to say about its data processes and flows.
Many of the institutions our researchers visited included universities. Across these universities, participants from various departments gained valuable insights into data practices, challenges, and aspirations within their institution’s community. In this blog post, we will delve into the discoveries made during these workshops, shedding light on the higher education data landscape and the vision of its participants for a data-driven future.
Building Data Stories with LEGO
The workshops were an empowering experience where participants were able to bring their data experiences and perspectives to life through the creation of LEGO brick models. The models each participant group created served as vibrant visual metaphors for the intricate world of data management, with colours representing different aspects of data.
Model One: Unravelling the Value of Data
The first model took participants on a journey from data insecurity (yellow) to data security (green). It vividly depicted the challenges faced by data users within the university—copious, partially organised, and misunderstood data, all within a web of stakeholders and management systems. This model unveiled a deep passion for transparent and exploitable data, emphasising the need for better data management practices and enhanced trustworthiness.
Model Two: Navigating Data Silos
The second model focused on identifying key data silos and the hurdles faced by everyday data users. Four distinct silos emerged from the discussions:
1. External Suppliers (Silo 1): Participants discussed challenges associated with external suppliers and the need for consistency and routine audits to ensure value addition.
2. Relationships (Silo 2): This silo revolved around the influence of relationships on data management, highlighting the importance of transparent communication and collaboration.
3. Technology (Silo 3): The management and deployment of data-based technology were discussed, along with the need for staff education and upskilling.
4. Political Aspects (Silo 4): Participants identified political factors as hindrances to smooth data processes and called for clarity and trust among stakeholders.
The second model illustrated the ideal state of data management within each silo and offered solutions to overcome existing challenges. These solutions included consistent supplier standards, transparent communication, staff education, and clear data usage goals.
A Vision for the Future
Participants across both models expressed a shared vision of an ideal data environment characterised by streamlined processes and interconnected data flows. They saw data as an enabler of progress but recognised the challenges posed by relationships and technology. Leadership from senior management was identified as crucial in providing guidance on data usage within a matrix organisation.
The LEGO Serious Play workshops at the higher education institution unearthed a wealth of insights into the university’s data landscape. Participants passionately envisioned a future where data processes were streamlined, transparent, and interconnected. They called for improved communication, collaboration, and benchmarking practices to realize this vision.
These workshops have set the stage for further exploration and the anticipation of forthcoming official publications. As we continue to unlock the potential of data, it is clear that collaboration and innovation will play pivotal roles in shaping the data landscape at the higher education institution and beyond.