How Data Insights Drive Measurable Change in All Organizations with Korri Jones
Data insights will only get you so far, it’s what you do with them that drives measurable change.
Korri Jones is a forward-thinker whose developmental mindset has helped him execute many data innovations inside and outside his role. The Sr. Lead Machine Learning Engineer joined Chick-fil-A in 2016. In that time, his position has evolved from Lead Analyst for Business Insights to Enterprise Analytics, to his current role – which Korri balances alongside Innovation Coaching.
Korri has two goals. The first is to use advanced analytics and leading data techniques and technologies to deploy saleable solutions throughout the organization. The second is to give back as much as he can. Korri works with non-profits, has won awards for his dedication to volunteering, and, within Chick-fil-A, his role as an Innovation Coach allows him to guide and inspire others in his team and beyond.
In his own words, Korri says that data analytics is part of his career, but distilling complexity into meaningful insights is his gift. He shares some of this gift with Jason Dorsey on this episode of the Leading with Data podcast.
Hit play to listen to the podcast episode or read on to find out more.
Transforming Ideas into Reality
Korri’s current role at Chick-fil-A is rather unique. In fact, it’s completely custom to the organization’s needs and, critically, Korri’s skillset.
Since joining the company, Korri’s focus has been operationalizing machine learning models. These help to centralize and unlock data and can be vital to fuelling data strategy. But his “side hustle” is innovation coaching. Experiencing both the bleeding edge technical side of the business and the innovation side puts Korri in a rare position to observe how ideas become reality.
The Connection Between Insights, Processes, and Outcomes
Before Korri joined Chick-fil-A, he worked for a small firm in the healthcare industry. It was his first formal foray into data science, and he was keen to help optimize the business’s outcomes.
His role was impactful for the greater business, but there was a problem. It was taking up too much time for too many people, and it was boring. So Korri taught himself “an obscure coding language” (AutoIt) that he would use to automate the “boring” parts of his role and free up his time to do more meaningful work.
Korri took the idea to his VP and then the organization’s CFO, who instantly signed it off. Less than two weeks later, Korri’s automation was streamlining data processes and, in turn, helping support the company’s customers with better outcomes. It also transformed the roles of a quarter of the company, converting a six-person full-time job into a part-time role for one individual.
This transformation was “a huge win” from a data standpoint. Deciding to automate the data processes meant that the company could have a far bigger and better impact on their customers.
“I think sometimes we get so caught up in the whole idea of like, you know, you’ve got to have this great insight, which is really important. But sometimes data leads to improving processes, which then improves outcomes.”
How Data Roles Will Change
Looking toward the future, Korri says that roles within data will face necessary challenges and adapt accordingly. The biggest challenge he sees right now is working with “bad data”.
As companies find ways to clean and engineer data so that it works for them, more data knowledge will be needed across the organizations. Korri believes that people who are good at data forensics (and asking the right questions about data and business) will be invaluable.
Right now, organizations are still working out how to manage and use data. Korri says that sometimes it’s “like moving the Titanic to try and dodge the iceberg”. In the future, he hopes that there will be more clearly defined data operations – whether that’s tooling or technology – which can help create clean data and standards around it.
Korri believes that when organizations have easier access to this data, or at least are equipped with the tools to manage it themselves, then it will accelerate how they put it to use.
“Once you get your data right, the rest of the stuff just falls in line.”
What It Means to Be a Leader in the Data Industry
Within his role as an Innovation Coach, Korri helps to guide others, but how has data impacted his leadership approach?
“Data has really shaped my leadership strategy because it helps me to ask really good questions.”
Bad data especially prompts you to ask hard questions. Korri found that working with data reinforces the importance of Socratic Dialogue, a way of discussing topics that allows people to develop their thinking and formulate their own opinions, which he encourages within his team.
Korri also strives to advocate for others in the industry. He recognizes that many people doing fantastic data analytics and data science work find it difficult to move forward within their organizations. As a leader, he wants to “fight the fight” and make sure there are opportunities for the brilliant men and women within the data industry.
The Future of Data: Tech Partnerships and Giving Back
Regarding the future of data, Korri has two optimistic outlooks. The first is that it will revolutionize the impact non-profits and other organizations fighting for the greater good can have on the world.
Korri frequently encounters organizations that need and want to use data, but they struggle to put all the necessary parts in place to make it a reality. He believes that in the future, they will partner with other companies to access the tools they need in order to drive measurable change.
“Your Chick-fil-A, your Amazon, Microsoft, etc., can write big checks, but they’re not able to be the boots on the ground that Urban League can be, for example. If they’re equipped with the right tools and the right skillsets, we’re going to see some really awesome outcomes for young men and women around the world.”
For Korri, this is potentially the most exciting prospect for data: that local non-profits understand data, how to navigate it, and how to use it.
The other vision Korri has for the future is improved technical integration. He hypothesizes that small, agile startups, will combine their tools to form an integrated brand that supports data in a range of ways. Korri claims that this would “change the game for everybody that’s trying to do data science at scale”.
In the world of MLOps that Korri belongs to, that’s what data is all about. Scale.