Bristol City

Bristol Workforce for the Future Program – data to drive strategy

It was a massive privilege to be in a room of business leaders talking animatedly about possible uses of data.  And it was a huge honour to be told afterwards that the day had been ‘inspiring’.

I was presenting a workshop under the Bristol Workforce for the Future Program ( about using data to drive strategy – for management teams from the City’s cohort of SMEs and micro businesses.

The catalyst for their excitement was a demonstration of the savvy use of data to make gains in all the major levers of growth in a business.  Delegates could relate the case studies and methods to their own businesses – and they could see that the gains made should be well within their grasp.

Four of the businesses present were as follows – just to illustrate the variety of businesses present:

    • A steel fabricator – importing cheap steel from China and manufacturing steel structures for new homes and office blocks.
    • A presenter and promoter of arts events – researching and targeting different communities across the city.
    • A consultancy promoting environmentally sustainable construction practices – reaching out to construction companies, industry associations, colleges and schools.
    • A charity supporting homeless people – tracking them down, providing support, helping them to find shelter and accommodation.

Despite such a dramatic variation, the questions they had, that data might be able to answer, were striking similar.

    • Where can we find our next tranche of customers?
    • What problems do they want solved?
    • How can we bring them onboard?
    • What do we have to do to keep them?
    • How well are we doing at the moment?
    • Do we want to serve all of our customers?

It was this similarity of cause that made the ensuing collaboration possible. 

For example, the manager of a chain of shoe outlets had a brilliant insight about ways to see what arts events different minority communities might be interested in.

A digital marketer sparked ideas about ways to attract interest in environmentally sound construction methods.

And the boss of the steel fabrication company came up with ways to track and challenge certain behaviours displayed by her customers that added cost and slowed payment.

Curiosity and ‘need to know’ are the critical first steps in using data to grow a business.

The steps that follow are all about visioning how the answers might be found, and the data that will produce them.

During the workshop we walked the whole journey – from capturing the critical un-answered questions for each business – to putting hands on to keyboards to find and explore data, discover brand new comparisons, contrasts and correlations out of which answers are formed- all achieved using standard tools from Microsoft Office and Google.

Inspiration came when Delegates were able to join up the following.

    • They benefitted personally from acquiring new skills.
    • They acquired a framework for driving greater value into their business.
    • They could use their new skills to put the framework into action.

In other words they and their business benefited in equal measure.

It was no accident that things turned out this way.  As the Digital Lead in a local Dept For Education skills pilot we conducted research with over 40 local businesses into the learning requirements and preferred learning methods.

The results were clear – business leaders will take in interest in events such as technical workshops if they are of immediate relevance to their business, and they get highly valued skills from it, and they can be fitted around everyday work.

This is what we achieved in Bristol.  So ticks in boxes all round.

If you would like to gain additional skills with data, and benefit your business at the same time, please get in touch.

Contact Paul Clarke at


T:  0333 301 0302