I was an avid watcher of COVID stats in Victoria because it has a real outcome for us Melbournians - it told us when we came out of lockdown. From this, I’ve had three take outs about how not to manage with data.
Take Out #1
The first is the very simplistic use of data without giving any context behind it. The Government has completely missed what was happening with the numbers, where it's happening and why it's happening. They managed our lockdown purely on the number of cases per day.
We know that the Victorian Government used models but there were a lot of questions around the transparency of those models. We didn't have visibility over what they generated and the data that’s went into them. They didn't use the data they had in a descriptive manner.
They didn't tell us where cases occur - were they in a healthcare environment or at the supermarket, for example. We didn't know the source of the cases or where the clusters were, although this has eventually changed. They also didn't tell us the cause or how a cluster started.
We had no data about contact tracing so we didn't know whether the Government was doing a good job or what key metrics they were using to ensure that it was successful.
As a justification for why they are kept people in lockdown, the Government talked about health benefits, but didn't give us any data about how far away from overloading our hospitals we were. They also didn't seem to be looking at other health-related measures, like the mental health perspective.
Without this type of data we’re not given enough information to draw our own conclusions about how long the lockdown should go on for or how stringent it should have been.
Take Out #2
Secondly, the data that we did have was not aligned to outcomes. We were originally told that the Government wanted to get down to five cases a day but the reality is they wanted to get to zero. They tried to use data as a target but then they didn’t stick to those targets or explain what it would have taken to get to that outcome.
Take Out #3
The final thing that the Government failed to do is keep control of the narrative. If you don’t control the narrative, at some point the people who you're trying to work with - your employees or constituents - start to make up their own benchmarks. Victorians looked to New South Wales and asked why were we locked down if they have had more cases than we had. Very quickly, I think the Government lost control of its narrative. It was just a matter of time before there was enough upswell that says, we’re done.
This was really one of those great case studies on how not to manage a business. If we managed a business like this we'd drive it into the ground. When you are managing your business, you can’t just take one simple metric, like revenue. There are other metrics that you should be looking at to really understand the true health of your business. You then use this data to align to the outcomes you want to achieve and create a narrative around that. That’s how you manage with data.
The importance of Collaborative BI in a more 'remote' working world
The world has turned upside down. And, thanks to weeks of working from home, a new way of working may be upon us when we flip back. Overnight, collaborative technology has been embraced, workflows have adjusted and opponents to ‘work-from-home’ have seen first hand that it can in fact work (and see where it doesn't).