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Chief Analytics Officer Fall - Cameron J. Davies


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The Chief Analytics Officer Forum brought together over 230+ Chief Analytics Officers, Data Leaders, Senior Analytics Experts and Innovators for its inaugural event in New York. The two day conference was filled with networking, high level insight and discussion, addressing the hottest topics and challenges faced by CAOs and Senior Data & Analytics professionals. Following the success of the first instalment of the CAO Forum, we will be returning to New York for the second instalment on October 5 – 7.

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Chief Analytics Officer Fall - Cameron J. Davies

  1. 1. Cameron J. Davies - Corporate Management Sciences Question 1 : How has your role evolved over the past 12-18 months? Most of these rolestendtofollowsimilarpathswhena company like NBCU is just getting started in thisarena. Consequently,mylast12-18 monthshave beeninthose initial stages. The first6 months were largely about building relationships, listening and getting integrated into the business. It really doesn’t matter how experienced you are either at “analytics” or the industry, your first step should always be about listening to the business, understanding their struggles, challenges, and opportunities. Youcan pickup some quickwinsalongthe waybutit islargely just learning. Months 6-12 are about establishing a strategic vision for how you want to prioritize and drive value. We calleditsettinga“North Star” of where we would like to see the organization in 5 years. We know the path withevolve andshift,butitisimportanttosetit and thenmake decisions incrementally as you evolve with the business. You also spend a lot of time in months 6-18 just doing the heavy infrastructure lifting of establishing your Data Strategy (finding it, storing it, curating it, then syndicatingit),mostof the firststage value comesfromdrivingefficiencyandeffectiveness through these processes. The next18-36 monthsiswhere the job gets really fun and exciting, because with the foundationsinplace we can begin to really deliver value added integrated tools and processes that help the company make better decisions more often. Question 2 : What advice would you give someone wanting to become a Chief Analytics Officer, and what are the core skills one needs to thrive within the role? The role is only20% data and math and80% humanbehaviorandorganizational change. There are a lot of verysmart technicallyand mathematically talentedpeople whofailatthese rolesbecause they don’tunderstandthat. Data and analytical skill setsare reallyjustthe table stakes anymore. The people thatwill excel atthese rolesinthe future (especiallywherethe real growth will be outside of the digital natives) are goingtobe the those that can influence anorganization. I wouldstronglyadvise anyonethinkingof attemptingone of these rolestospendasmuchtime reading, studyingtheirOrganizational BehaviorandPsychology “textbooks”astheydotryingto dig throughthe math of the latestmachine learning algorithm. Question 3 : Data is exploding, the number of analysts is flattening and expectations and demand are growing – how does one best manage in this scenario? Should the focus be on processes or business problems?
  2. 2. Yes. :-) There isno “OR”, that is like askingwhetherIshouldfocusonbreathingorpumping blood…if youstopdoingeitheryoudie. Businessprocessesare bynature are evolvedtodeal witha businessproblem. Anyadvancedanalytics “tool”youwantto role outor put inplace has to absolutelybe designedtoenhance aspecificsetof decisionsthe businessmakesonanon-going basesANDdo so ina way that can be acted uponappropriately(i.e.,fitwiththe business processes). Forexample,aLOT of vendorswantto sell mediacompanies “real-timetools”. The idea of beingable tosee whoistuninginor out of my program in “real-time”soundsexcitingBUT…by the time a put a procedural dramaon the air (fullyproduced) thereare veryfew decisions Ican make “in the moment”thatwill impactthe contentor airingof that show. Consequently,what value doesthatinformationgenerate forme inthatmoment? Question 4 : What is the biggest challenge you face within your role today and how are you looking to tackle it? We are no differentthan99%of the folksoutthere tryingto dothis. Our #1 challenge isnon- existent,incomplete,orbaddata and / or the inabilitytoquicklyprocessall of the datawe have stored(newtoolslike Hive andSparkare helpingwiththisbut still anissue). We are tackingit viaan integratedDataStrategythat alignswithouroverall AdvancedAnalyticsstrategy. Itstartswitha consistentandpersistentMasterData and Metadatastrategyand moves throughto Curationand Syndicationinwaysthatcreate “single”consistentsourcesforotheruse caseslike enhanced automatedreporting,forecasting,etc.,etc., Question 5: What is the biggest challenge faced by the analytics/big data industry currently and in what ways does this affect your business? Too manyvendorsandtoo fewqualifiedcandidates,especiallyhighlyqualifieddataarchitects. In particularthose people thatare able andwillingtodigdownintothe bowelsof the datato create useful repositories. Everyone wantstobe the “rock star” whodoescool mathbut that can only happenif all of the hardwork of data procurementandcurationhas beendone. Consequently, people wanttothrowthat work back a vendorwhoreally doesn'tunderstandyourdataor business and / or a traditional BIgroupwithinIT,whoby habitand nature tendto thinkinrows,columnsand traditional EDWstructures. There are a lotof start-upsoutthere rightnow tryingto tackle this particularproblembutitis sortof like the promise of amagic dietpill. Maybe itwill existone day and workwell withoutall of the nastyside effectsbutfornow,itjusttakeshard work andyou have to be willingtoroll upyoursleevesandgetitdone. It isn’tsexyanditisn’tfunbut the resultscanbe amazingif youhave the tenacityandfortitude tostickwithitand getit done right. Question6: Where doyou see beingthe biggestarea of investmentinanalytics within your industry overthe next12 months? Distributedcomputing. Distributedstorage made itpossibleto gatherinand keepall of this “data”
  3. 3. but insome wayswe are still drinkingfromthe proverbial data “ocean”witha verythinstraw. It is gettingbetterandbetterand I thinkthisiswhere youwill see the biggestgainsoverthe nextyearor so. Question 7: What is the biggest future trend you see within the Big Data and Analytics space? (For example, what opportunities do new data sources such as IoT, web, social, mobile, and ecommerce present? OR What are the future possibilities for Machine Learning, Deep Learning and AI?) See above.