We’ve come to the end of the Survival SQL series. Hopefully, you think the posts are relevant and easy to understand. Above all, I hope that your newfound knowledge has empowered you to take greater ownership of the data in your company.
What does ownership mean? Your company probably has dedicated teams of data engineers and scientists. And your goal should be to become a more proactive partner with them. After all, they would not need to build and maintain all that data infrastructure without you! You translate the data into practical business insights and ideas. Hence, you are a critical link for your company to maximize value from its data.
Goal #1: Take ownership of data in your business presentations
Even before you become confident writing your own SQL queries, you can learn to read other people’s queries. When your management asks you to tell a story with data, you’re probably pulling charts from dashboards built by your business intelligence team. Now that you have an overview of SQL concepts, you can look at the queries behind the dashboards you use. That will give you a solid grasp of where your data is coming from and how it is aggregated.
With more reflection on how your company captures and reports on data, you’ll become more curious about inter-relationships between KPIs. This will help you to offer deeper insights in your business presentations. For example, you might have noticed that your order volume has declined. Based on your intuition, you suspect that a decision to allocate marketing spend from one channel to another might be unsuccessful. With your SQL knowledge, you can split the order volume by marketing channel, even if that split isn’t in the dashboard you normally use. You can then use numbers to back up your theory about why the business is not performing.
Goal #2: Take ownership of the data products that serve your business
After you’ve gotten used to engaging with data proactively, you’ll have a feel of how frequently you use different charts and metrics. This is the time when you can become a valued product owner for the reporting tools in your department.
Every data dashboard needs to refresh at least daily to give a current view of business performance. And today, many companies are storing and managing their data on the cloud. Because cloud vendors charge based on the volume of queries, this can get quite expensive if you are building dashboards that few people use! Therefore, you can save money for your company by setting specific and targeted requirements for dashboards. These should contain the metrics and data cuts that many people in your department (or better still, multiple departments) look at every day.
Best of all, now that you know SQL, you can self-serve. For any once-off custom charts geared at a specific meeting or presentation, you can pull the data yourself. And if those custom charts become popular enough, you can then create the requirements for your business intelligence team to automate them.
Goal #3: Be a proactive partner with data science
The final step towards greater data ownership is to play a role in driving data science priorities in your company. Of late, the emphasis on data science has accelerated quickly in many industries. However, a continuing dialogue between business stakeholders and data scientists is important. This ensures that data scientists pursue research goals that have the greatest impact for the business.
As you get used to pulling and using data, you’ll get more intuition to propose the use of data to test new ideas or measure performance in new ways. You’ll create data-backed talking points to explain your hypothesis. Then, you’ll brainstorm with your data science team to create more structured research and experimentation.
First and foremost, you’re in a business-focused role. But you don’t have to be a SQL developer to harness its functionality. With the increasing need to understand and use data to keep up with technology trends, a working knowledge of SQL is a useful means to increase your productivity and fit into a data-driven culture. I hope that this series has helped to shorten your learning curve, thus helping you to add more value to your day job.