What's in this podcast?

In this episode, Jason talks to Roberto Maranca, Data Excellence VP at Schneider Electric. Together, Roberto and Jason talk about the parallels between a data team and a high-performance sports team.

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One big message

There are many similarities between data and the sporting world. Performance in both is dependent on factors such as good leadership, having key supporters and continually measuring progress so your teams can reach peak performance. 

[02:20] Utilising agility to improve data within an organisation and the concept of a ‘data personal trainer’

[10:55] Which people function as the data personal trainer and other members of the training team

[15:40] How to navigate the journey after an initial decision is made

[19:32] Why it is good to sometimes get a 3rd party perspective

[21:32] How spectators and supporters help carry through your data plan

[26:50] Encouraging a winning environment where champions are made

[29:30] Measuring performance of the team

[32:10] The warm-up versus large transformational changes

[37:32] What happens when you want to do a strategy change

[40:30] The ‘fitbit’ of the data world


Why you should view the data leader as a personal trainer

In order to be successful, you need to have a clear plan and purpose for your data strategy. The data leader is like a personal trainer in this respect – they help organisations to harness data  and use it effectively to achieve desired results.

In addition to strategy, the data leader is responsible for guiding and encouraging their team. A good data leader will work alongside a team to formulate both short and long term goals, and then create a customised plan to reach them. They will also provide ongoing support and guidance, so that progress occurs even after the initial goal is met.


What the people within the ‘data training team’ look like

Just like a sports team, a data team has many key players that work together to achieve success. From the data analysts who make sense of the numbers, to the engineers who build and maintain the systems, each role is essential to the team’s performance.


The warm-up vs. the main event

You can’t run a marathon if you’ve never run your first mile. The same is true for ambitious data teams who always want to skip to the end in the fastest time possible. Just like a sports team, improvements are made over time. They also need many hours of training until they get to a point where they can comfortably get to the end. Once they have done it a few times then they can work on trying to improve their performance. 


Creating champions

In every team sport, there are certain champions who stand out from the rest. This is also true in the data world. Ideally you want to create a culture and environment which creates champions but there will always be some key players that stand out. If you have a few key champions it is important to identify where they are placed. There is no point in having all your champions laser focused on the same project. This type of strategic placement will help to push the whole team forward. 

A great data leader understands that champions can be created and attracted to join a certain team. This can be done by encouraging personal and professional growth, having a good data culture and giving members the freedom to push the boundaries of their skill and knowledge. 


Pushing boundaries and knowing when your team has reached peak performance

Successful data teams are always looking for ways to push boundaries and improve performance. However, there comes a point where every team reaches its peak performance and further improvements become increasingly difficult. Most companies will be happy keeping their current trajectory steady with minimal need for more innovation. But there will always be the top 1% who will constantly push themselves to be the best. 

It is also very easy to become obsessed with what your competition is doing. Healthy competition is good, it drives change and innovation in the industry. But you also need to focus on the business goals, your team’s capabilities and making the most of what you have. 



While they may not be out on the field or court trying to score points, data teams work behind the scenes to ensure that their company has the best data possible. In many ways, a data team is analogous to a sports team. They both have specific roles that need to be filled in order for the team to function properly. There are also coaches who help guide and shape the team. And of course, both teams need to practise and work together in order to achieve success.

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