Paula Quiller’s Blog on the latest BCSWomen Scotland event: Data Driven Decisions

Data Driven Decisions: Ally or Big Brother?

We increasingly make decisions based on the information that’s pushed to us through the numerous digital devices in our lives, at home and at work. Is the data that’s being presented and driving our decisions an ally or a nefarious big brother? The BCS Women event on 18th June tackled this meaty topic with Hilary Wood and Jona Duka from PwC presenting different perspectives of how data can be used in the workplace to support decisions.

Hilary talked about data monitoring in workplace and its impacts and issues. Increasing corporate wellness programmes are using wearable technology to encourage healthy behaviours (e.g. complete your 10,000 steps per day and get your Fitbit/Apple watch for free), however in the US there are companies using the wearables data to monitor health, provide or withhold benefits & determine health insurance premiums.

Hilary used the results from her 7 month MsC study of the professional women’s British professional basketball team to illustrate the key issues and impacts of fitness monitoring technology. The British team used various forms of fitness monitoring technology to drive decisions about the team management and play. Whilst play statistics are now common in professional sport and available to all, data on the fitness levels of the team aren’t. In the study the team’s fitness was monitored using wearable heart rate bands & apps to collect regular data; the individual player data was then shared across the team. This had a negative impact on those whose data flagged them as being at the bottom of the fitness scale. Over the 7 months the team’s performance declined: the key contributing factor to this was the way the data was handled and the analytics dealt with. If the analytics had been handled differently the results could have been very different. The study demonstrated that policies on handling the data are as important as the analytics, and there are a number of key issues to consider in the overuse of employee data:

  • Privacy
  • Power
  • Trust
  • Discrimination.

Jona presented an alternative view on how data can be used by organisations to provide specific relevant management information (MI). Companies are faced with a high volume of data which requires a structured top down approach to create meaningful MI. This approach has 7 key elements:

  1. Audience
  2. Planning
  3. Governance
  4. Terminology
  5. Data quality
  6. Systems
  7. Implementation

In addition to the structured approach, Jona emphasised that it’s important to question everything when working with data as anomalies and distorted results can occur. We then had a demo of how quickly and easily a report can be built in the implementation step once the other 6 elements have been applied.

The discussion that followed the presentations was very interesting as the audience raised questions and points on the issues and risks of using employee data. The points raised included privacy rights and permission, data bias, discrimination and distortion of the data.



  • Hilary Wood is an Associate in PwC’s Cyber Security team.
  • Jona Duka is a Senior Associate in PwC’s Data & Analytics team.



Contributed by Paula Quiller