Data and Analytics Spotlight: 15 Minutes with Matt Wright

Data and Analytics Spotlight: 15 Minutes with Matt Wright

Matt is a recognised IT business leader and CIO, currently working as an Interim CIO for a Global CPG business. He has a background steeped in data, analytics and innovation, having occupied many impressive roles including Global Transformation Director for WPP, European CIO for SABMiller and Director of IT Operations and Vendor Management for Transport for London. He was also the IT Programme Director for Virgin Media, as well as Centrica (parent company for British Gas, Bord Gáis Energy and Direct Energy).

Johnnie Greenwood from technology, digital and change recruiter La Fosse Associates, spoke to Matt about where some companies are going wrong in their data and analytics reporting, the impact of GDPR and his predictions about which digital roles will rise and fall.

JG: It seems as though at the moment, data and analytics are on a meteoric rise. Tell us a bit about the data landscape of a few years ago, and what problems you saw that you set out to solve.

MW: Three years ago, I was working at a multinational brewing and beverage company. The CEO was frustrated by the inability to answer simple questions – for example, how much premium lager we had sold globally. With 57 systems of record, we were unable to provide global insights about how the business was performing and how to optimise sales. I started just by asking some simple questions of the business – like, who owns data? There was a lack of clarity, within both the business and IT.

We approached the five biggest specialists and asked them some basic questions such as ’how do we extract value using data and analytics?’, ‘What are the first things we should tackle?’, ‘what organisation should support data and analytics?’ Every organisation we spoke with had a different opinion. We realised that there wasn’t a coherent perspective on how to carry out the specialist analytics we were wanting to run.

JG: Do people have more of a coherent perspective nowadays? Is there space for a new role, a chief data officer maybe?

MW: Controversial answer perhaps here: my view is, the reason we have seen the rise of positions like the Chief Digital Officer and Chief Data Officer may be because the CIO isn’t necessarily engaged with the business. My recommendation is that these roles should sit with the technology function.

The word ‘information’ in the CIO title is so important, and having clear accountability for the protection of data is essential. The key is establishing who ‘owns’ the data and who ‘protects’ the data.

With the boundaries clearly established there is a shared ownership across the whole enterprise for quality and integrity.

Each of the functional disciplines, like HR, Manufacturing, Finance etc., should own the business process which the data transacts with, and also the data itself. This means that, when reports are run and when decisions are made, they are based on the best possible data available.

It would be a shame if an organisation thought they could solve the data question by throwing some money at a new role. For me, the real value in data comes from a collaboration at an enterprise level. Data is not just a sealed box which one person should be stopping from tripping us up. It’s not about an individual role: it’s about the whole enterprise taking accountability, with clear boundaries and responsibilities.

JG: What’s the first step an organisation needs to take in embarking on a data and analytics report?

MW: I don’t think there is any way to do it other than stakeholder commitment, effort and perspiration. It’s all about grinding through and getting the master-data robust and aligned. You need to get that level of transparency across the business on a global basis, and until you’ve done this it’s very hard to get conclusions from reporting and analytics. It is easier for an enterprise with a small number of ERPs but getting consistent Master Data across 57 ERPs was a real slog.

What was interesting in my experience was the insight into how the market can try to sell you services which are only part answers to an overall question.

A quick, expensive fix is not a substitute for spending some time working out what questions to ask the market-place.

This gives you a fighting chance to get the right answers from 3rd parties, rather than buying something which looks flash but you can’t derive true, sustained value from.

JG: So; one lesson we can learn is to ask the right questions. What other key points of advice can you offer?

MW: The real lesson, from my experience, is that data and analytics is an opportunity for IT and the business to collaborate.
The analogy we used was that IT is the ‘garage’ in which the business parks their ‘car’, the car being the data and the business being the car-owner. The business has to own the car, be accountable for and drive the car, where IT provides the safe place to park the car, keeps it secure and provides the accessibility to get the garage door open at the right time to allow the business to drive it.

JG: What kind of success have you witnessed from the use of data and analytics?

MW: We launched a couple of interesting pilots looking at commercial investment in South Africa and Australia and were able to quantify the commercial difference added by analytics in these two markets. On investments of $2 million, we got a return of $8 million purely through marketing and analytics, around 8x more effective than previous investments.

As an example away from marketing, we made a $40 million saving just by reducing the sets of spare manufacturing parts (taps etc.) from one per brewery to one for multiple breweries in the same area. We applied a simple set of master-data and analytics about replicated parts and changed the stocking process.

JG: Will we reach a point where every boardroom decision is made on the basis of data analysis? Are we still going to be the ones making the decisions at the front end?

MW: Analytics is already making a substantial impact in the boardroom, but humans will 100% always be making the decisions and drawing the insights.

Analytics gives us the opportunity to think, and ask useful questions about the future.

It still takes a data scientist to find insight and understand what the data is telling us, correlate analytics to a spike in sales post advertising campaign and ask – if we learn something one country, can we apply it globally?

JG: So far from reducing the need for a human element, will we in fact see a rise in use of data scientists?

MW: Absolutely. You have to be compliant with what you as an organisation are presenting to the outside world, and you especially need that insight to check you are complying with regulations. Look at Amazon, which has been in the press for their algorithm which links potential bomb-making items together –a classic case of an algorithm functioning without any human intervention.

Kent Walker, the senior Vice President of Google, recently made a statement about the pure mass of data the company has to filter through – they already employ thousands of people working to train and improve the quality of their machine learning processing power. You need algorithms which give information but also, essentially data scientists on the back end working out what you can and can’t present to the outside market.

JG: So how will GDPR change what we can do, what impact do you see it having?

MW: For me, GDPR regulations are all the more reason to have a strong master data capability within the business. GDPR is 10% gross revenue fine if you fail it.

But GDPR is a matter of opportunity, not restriction.

If you don’t address core-management of data in your enterprise, you are missing out on the opportunity to be more competitive in the markets that you play in as well as failing on the compliance side of things.

JG: What developments are you looking forward to?

MW: The things I’m excited about from an IT perspective are the new technologies, like SAP Hana and HP’s ‘The Machine’, which are fulfilling the promise that IT has been making for some time to business to make real time reporting, eradicating the need for databases. As someone who’s been in IT for 30 years, the opportunities these kinds of technologies present are just mind-bending. We’re seeing massive advances in the ability to manipulate and virtualise data and protect systems of record, which provides really exciting opportunities for the business and for IT.

JG: Any closing comments?

MW: Data and analytics are an opportunity for an enterprise to integrate, and to create tight relationships and governance between IT and business. The closer and more strategic IT can be, the greater the value for the organisation. It’s really exciting to watch people’s creative energies begin to flow around a new concept: it creates a different atmosphere of value creation for IT and the business, and that alone is a prize worth pursuing.

Matt Wright | CIO and Non-Executive Director |LinkedIn

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