What's in this podcast?

In this episode, Jason talks to Óli Páll Geirsson, Chief Data Officer at The City of Reykjavik, Iceland, about the value of being data-driven in making decisions in order to result in a positively impactful experience for the people.

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One Big Message

Technology shouldn’t be like an omnipotent being that you have to bow down to. It should be in the background, like a couple of stars that you can look up to.

[03:21] Oli shares the agenda that they have in Reykjavik.

[04:19] Can data be more humane?

[06:08] How do council and decision-makers assess their decisions for the residents of Reykjavik?

[11:11] Value prioritisation approach to making sure you’re focussed on the right things, and how they work.

[17:20] How close are Reykjavik’s stakeholders to the reality of implementing the functional process of value prioritisation?

[19:58] Who are the stakeholders that support the data work in Reykjavik?

[23:13] Oli shares his role, and their set up as a data team.

[33:54] What was Oli’s route to moving into being a Chief Data Officer?


Conflict in human experience and data

Human experience and data both empower data-driven decisions that impact whatever it is that your organisation is trying to achieve. If an organisation is trying to achieve a better life for other people, and provide great public services, that’s being proper and right. That’s human. There’s definitely no conflict between the two.


Assess the impact of decisions

As a data officer, itss important to be data-driven in all operations. When assessing a decision in a government, it’s a must to keep an open dialogue between employees and residents. That should be the big picture.

Ask these questions to your stakeholders:

– “How is this product being received?”

– “And are you actually using it?”

– “Can we improve it?”

As an example, in Reykjavik there’s an operational dashboard that’s open for the department of welfare. An open dialogue with your stakeholders asks, “How is this affecting you?” “Does it help you to run your day to day operations?” “Does it help your clients?” “How can we improve it?”.


Value prioritisation

It’s about making sure you’re focussed on the right staff, and include the right people in that decision-making process. Also, focus on the outcome. It’s not about digital or about data. It’s about service, engagement, and experience that is supported by digital or physical. The data products that are being built can often become quite ‘precious’, but in reality, what’s more important is the impact data drives, and the resulting influence it has over the experience.


Data Foundation

The data foundation is in four layers; each layer supports the layer above. This helps describe the areas of responsibilities of a data officer.


  1. First layer is what we call data opponents, and the talents that we need in the data pump basin layer. It’s sometimes called data engineers. They’re responsible for getting the data from various source systems into a domain.


  1. Second layer, which is data science and data scientists. They work on the crazy intersection between statistics, mathematics and being an artist. You have to have insights into what the data is saying, then you have to have the know-how to apply the correct models.


  1. Third layer is called data state operations. It is incredibly important nowadays, because their responsibility is to expose your work: to build products and build a service experience that will look something for somebody.


  1. The top layer is the team itself.And the leader must prioritise the value. They need to have a discussion with their stakeholders to help them see the value from their point of view. They need to motivate their team and inspire them to work for value.


To summarise

The ability to react and respond in a crisis is predicated on having good data and good information to base those decisions on otherwise you’re shooting in the dark. It’s become really clear that with data in the government, the insight that’s provided needs to give all the facts. It needs to be presented in a way that people that understand the politics, the finances, and the impact they’re trying to make on society will understand it. They’re the ones that are ultimately responsible for the decision, so they need to be armed with the information that can help them make the right ones.

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