Analytics In A Changing World

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Analytics has been making an impact in organisations around the world for decades, but the approach to exploiting the potential of analytics has often been disjointed, focused in areas such as marketing and other specialist functions. This has often struck me as curious, as the techniques and capabilities of analytical teams are rarely function specific yet the opportunities to deploy these are constrained for a variety of reasons.

Ian Wallis, Head of Data, Analytics & Insight, Defence Infrastructure Organisation; [email protected]
Ian will be speaking at the Enterprise Data & Business Intelligence and Analytics Conference Europe 19-22 November 2018, he will be speaking on the subject, “Driving Change by Applying Analytics Enterprise-Wide.”

I have operated in the data and analytics arena for 30 years, working across a dozen sectors in that time, which gives me a perspective on how analytics is exploited across a wide range of organisations in both public and private sector. The earlier part of my career was in marketing, building an opportunity pipeline, devising optimised campaign selections and feeding a hungry sales machine with highly targeted customers and prospects likely to buy the service or product.

I worked in conjunction with other analytics teams, especially in the financial services sector, with risk management being a noticeable player in the use of analytics. Yet few made the journey from one analytics team to another, there was limited joined up activity between analytics teams despite there being plenty of rationale to do so. I recall setting up some sessions to bring my marketing analytics team closer to their counterparts in credit and risk, sharing approaches and challenges and talking of joint activities, and yet I don’t recall that this led to a significant shift in aligning activities or resources.

As I have progressed through my career I have had the opportunity to deploy analytics across an organisation, not just focus on one area. I have spoken to headhunters and agencies about the nature of what I have been doing and been met with a pleasant surprise or amazement that I am leading a truly cross-functional team. Very few have suggested that the analytics roles they are filling today have such a remit, they are finding the majority of roles still conform to a narrow specialism within an organisation. The calls often end with both parties asking the same question: why?

The advent of roles such as the Chief Analytics Officer and Chief Data Officer is beginning to bring opportunities in the data and analytics space across organisations together as a whole. It seems to me that the potential of analytics in a number of organisations is not being exploited fully, that the capabilities of analytics resources could be much more effective if deployed in a more holistic approach to join activities in an end-to-end view of an organisation’s operations, which would extract more value and reduce cost.

I also wonder whether the increasing concerns of data security and accessibility are beginning to emerge. There have been a catalogue of data breaches in recent years which have been financially damaging but arguably have a greater impact to the reputation of the brand. The hacking and scam threats posed to organisations and their customers are growing, and it is becoming more challenging to make access to information available whilst securing it against such threats. Legislation is struggling to keep pace, and whilst GDPR has introduced some controls, it may be that customer behaviour drives the biggest change in the years ahead as individuals begin to consider whether they are willing to make their data readily available and putting their trust in those they transact with.

In a recent survey, BlackLine found that 42% of finance leaders saw reputational risk as the greatest impact of a data loss or breach – just 10% consider the biggest risk the financial consequences. Amongst those aged 25-34, the proportion for reputational risk grew to 58%. Perhaps those moving into senior positions within organisations are becoming more data literate to appreciate both the value of data and the risk of losing it.

There is a need for data and analytics professionals to think carefully about their role as the custodian of customer data. Trust in how it is used, stored and shared is becoming a growing issue, and the effectiveness of professionals in this arena will only diminish if accessibility of data becomes a problem. It is perhaps a sobering thought that as the tools and capabilities of professionals in this field are growing in importance, so too the very essence of what powers this – data – is potentially the biggest risk to our future to deliver on this potential.

It is essential that we all take our role as data custodians seriously, and focus on what we need to do to ensure we maintain our ability to utilise the data asset and thereby help educate and inform others within our organisations of the importance of getting this right. Many companies are beginning to appreciate data is a critical asset, or the new oil as some like to call it. We need to ensure there is plenty of oil into the future, otherwise like that precious commodity, we will have to reinvent how we power the future.

Ian Wallis is Head of Data, Analytics & Insight (DA&I) at the Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO). DA&I’s role is to transform DIO into a data-driven, evidence-based organisation to support efficient use of £3.5bn of annual spending to enable the armed forces to live, work and train. Ian’s remit encompasses data management, business intelligence, MI and reporting, analytics and insight. Ian has nearly thirty years’ experience in this field and has managed programmes in blue chip organisations, including data warehouse projects at organisations including Centrica and BBC. He has led analytics teams at HSBC, Royal Mail and The Pensions Regulator and delivered data management programmes at Thomson Reuters, Barclays and Arqiva. Ian works for Aecom and is deployed through the Strategic Business Partner arrangement which has insourced private sector expertise to transform the DIO. Prior to this, Ian worked as an interim manager through his own company, Data Strategists.

Copyright Ian Wallis; Head of Data Analytics & Insight, Defence Infrastructure Organisation

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