What impacts means to me

Anne AlarillaAnne Alarilla is one of our #DataImpactFellows. We asked what impact means to her.


My original recipe

Last year I was working in Cancer Research UK (CRUK) and conducting analyses and reports such as these.

I was working on one project at the time, often sourcing and using different data sets to analyse and produce a specific output. The impact of my projects was mainly measured by the reach of the findings of these reports which helps to strengthen the influence of CRUK on cancer prevention. My recipe for impact was:

  1. Select the relevant data set for my stakeholders
  2. Choose and conduct a robust analysis
  3. Produce one specific output i.e. a report or data visualisation
  4. Share the outcomes to the relevant stakeholders to influence decision makers 

rolling pin and pastry cut-outs

Image: rolling pin and pastry cut-outs (Photo by Vita Marija Murenaite on Unsplash)


Transplanted to a new kitchen

However, my recipe has been altered since then. I now work as an Insight Analyst for NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT).

NHSBT manages blood and donations services in England and transplant services across the UK. The organisation is a special health organisation as it deals with NHS-wide issues. Due to its nature, we have staff all over the country working in a wide variety of settings. Therefore, the influence of Covid-19 on the organisation needed to be understood and monitored.

An example of how impact has changed for me is through a particular project conducted as a response to this pandemic. My project analysed NHSBT absence data to monitor Covid-19 related absences which was presented in different formats that developed over time:

1.  Absence trend reporting by absence type

During the start of lockdown there was a need to track absence data in a clear and concise way that allowed us to monitor the different types of Covid-19 absences (sickness, special leave and stranded) over time. This allowed the organisation to assess the impact of Covid-19 on the workforce.

2.  Absence trend reporting by directorate

Different directorates are composed of different workforce settings, so the impact of Covid-19 is not shouldered equally. As the format of presenting Covid-19 absences for the whole organisation was finalised, there was another request for directorate breakdown which would allow the organisation to provide focussed support.

3.  Absence Trend reporting by teams and location

During lockdown, there was a need to provide further support to our staff. Further to the directorate breakdown, a breakdown by teams and location allowed us to identify which individuals in those teams/locations required further help and support.

4.  Absence trend reporting by regions

After the lockdown, to try and monitor the possible second wave and the impact of it, senior leaders requested a regional breakdown of Covid-19 absence trend. I worked with them to align the data presentation with the questions they had.


A new recipe

The lessons I’ve learned from this project have adapted my recipe for impact.

In my previous work, the main challenges that affected impact were firstly choosing and accessing the relevant data set and secondly creating a pathway for the findings to reach decision makers. Yet, this project had a pre-built route towards sharing the findings to the decision makers and there was only one relevant data set that could have been used. Therefore my main challenge for this project were steps 2 and 3.

The nature of this work is rapid and had quicker turn arounds than my previous projects.

I had been under the impression that the output and analysis was straightforward. Yet I’ve come to realise that the impact of my work was dependent on whether my analysis and presentation were aligned with the changing priorities of my stakeholders. I had previously underestimated the need to adapt the type of output I produce to questions relevant to my stakeholders at the time.

Achieving impact is not necessarily a linear process and working collaboratively with stakeholders is necessary to increase the impact of your work. Furthermore it’s not essential to continually produce new analysis with new data sets and new outputs to increase impact.

Utilising readily available resources that might be analysed or presented in a different way to contribute new information to the relevant topics at the time may just be as impactful or if not more impactful.

My recipe for impact now is:

  1. Identify the questions relevant to your stakeholders 
  2. Select the relevant data set for your stakeholders
  3. Choosing and conducting a robust analysis
  4. Produce an output i.e. report or data visualisation in a timely manner 
  5. Re-identify the relevant questions to your stakeholders to ensure that the output is still relevant 
  6. Adapt the output if needed 
  7. Share the outcomes to the relevant stakeholders to reach decision makers 

Cupcakes being taken from oven

Image: cupcakes being taken out of oven (Photo by Taylor Grote on Unsplash)


I’m aware that as I gain more experience as a data analyst, this recipe will be further refined and grow over time.

The main thing I did learn from this change in role and organisation is that exposing yourself to short and long term projects will allow you to have a more comprehensive relationship with impact. 

About the author

Anne Alarilla is one of the UK Data Service Data Impact Fellows 2019 and an Insight Analyst for the Insight, Strategy and Innovation team at NHS Blood and Transplant.

The main role of her team is to be the voice of the donor/patients and improve their experience through data analysis and research. She also has a specific project working closely with the people directorate and evaluating staff’s experience and attitude towards NHSBT, particularly among the Black Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) groups. The aim of her project is to increase staff recruitment in BAME groups which will hopefully increase more BAME donors. She will also be exploring how she can use the available data in the UK Data Service to assist her project.

Anne previously worked at Cancer Research UK where she explored smoking, overweight and obesity prevalence in the UK and individual nations of the UK with a particular focus on prevalence trends. She also created a tool to accumulate smoking, overweight and obesity prevalence statistics from individual nations’ health surveys in one central place.

Follow Anne on Twitter: @alarillaanne 

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