Q&A: Data & Analytics with Omar Khan
The world of data is constantly changing – What tips do you have to keep up to date and not get left behind?
Data is at the epicentre to decision making in today’s world. It’s a cold fact, but data is helping us make the world a better place. There is a lot of information out there to keep us aware of what data to tap into, some of my tips to stay ahead of the curve include:
- Involve customers into product development and tap into their data sources.
- Introduction of Hackathons & design thinking Workshops, which will allow data innovations to take place.
- Host data events and hackathons to attract the right people and have knowledge sharing on new data ecosystems.
General ways of keeping yourself up to date with the new data trends would be reading technical magazines, online training, reading blogs and experimenting with data to create new products.
Although there has been an uplift in companies investing in BI, many organisations still report a lack of information to make effective decisions. Why is this?
Investing in BI cannot be taken as return on investment right away. It is more of a strategic tool to decision making. Many companies lack the understanding of KPI’s to measure success as business or invest in data models which aren’t flexible. BI to some companies is only dashboards and hence it fails to deliver the insight into data. There must be another layer of data scientist who are solely responsible for predictive analysis and building economic modelling, which allows us to consider future campaigns.
We’re in the age of information, Business Intelligence is being widely used and the competition for talent has never been as fierce. What is your strategy for attracting and retaining the very best talent?
Analytical minds are there for the taking, but the gem amongst them would a vertical specialist. When I mean vertical specialist, it would be someone with good business knowledge on data points within the business. Apart from Project managers, technical architects & database expertise, we would have to rely on solution architects or business analysts who would understand the end to end data journey and can build scalable business intelligence products. The Landscape at which BI operates now is huge, you need an expert mind at every stage from data capturing to visual analytics. The pace at which data is travelling is an EYE OPENER and only a right solution architect understands which data to capture and what algorithm to run for segmenting the right data.
On a second note, to attract the best talent you need to be innovative and have better product strategies within companies that will allow people to thrive to work with those products. Technology acceleration and use of data around social channels, machine learning, data ecosystems, mobile & security would be some of the key market trends which should pave the way for lots of products and attract the right talent. The focus today is to bring in the right people to match our strategy, however we also need to understand that our strategy needs to be agile and so will our future recruitment needs. The main drivers for our skills requirements are the business plans for each team.
Most of the workforce will soon be made up of the Millennial generation. What are the biggest challenges that you face when trying to work with this type of talent for your technical team and how have you overcome these?
Millennials are always looking to find purpose in their work, they will always look for roles where they will learn and grow. Companies will require strategic Data Officers who are looking in the right direction from Data transformation to automation. Building the right training programs and workshops will motivate these talented individuals to stay with the company. The relation here is mutual. Both parties benefit from each other, as you see evolution of more products under the digital transformation. They become entrepreneurs of their own products and see the value they add to the company.
They are like red monkeys rather than sheep who can be fitted into a box and have the same routine every day. They will always be job hoping and good leaders, only they will understand how to use them by valuing their product expertise and utilizing their combo skills of entrepreneur & tech. They are looking to work under a mentor or guide rather than a boss.
Eventually creating more of design thinking workshops, hackathons, Global Product awards and road shows on their products have allowed us to retain them.
BI is an active contract market, what are your views on recruiting contractors and when does this add value to you?
BI evolution from just visual charts to data automation and machine learning has only allowed the demand of these professionals. Skill sets ranging from R, Phython, Cloud (AWS,Azure ), Machine learning and visual analytics tools are always required in Analytics department with constant product evolution.
The reason for heavy use of contractors is constant changing of product landscape in retail, banking and evolution of data companies who continue to grow. Analytical firms are finding it hard to keep pace and hiring contractors allows them to change expertise and bring in fresh minds on board. As a Data & Tech leader it comes as no surprise that jobs for business intelligence (BI) analysts tasked with analysing large amounts of data are opening faster than they can be filled.
As I said earlier, Contractors are more like Entrepreneurs of their products, where their skills are products which evolve with company data strategy and allowing both to reach their goal.
As Business Intelligence evolves, what technologies are you looking to implement over the next 12 months and why?
There would be lot of technologies which will evolve but 3 keys ones on top are:
- IOT : The Internet of Things (IoT) is touching every technology sector around the world, and it’s having a significant impact on how enterprises and consumers interact with machines and devices.
The capabilities of smart, connected products can be grouped into four areas: monitoring, control, optimization, and autonomy. Each build on the preceding one; to have control capability, for example, a product must have monitoring capability. Each of these stages will require people from Sensor technology data capturing, data mapping and AI expertise to join the trend. The next stage would be IOT securities and that requires production better products to protect consumer identity. The chain is ever growing.
- Artificial Intelligence & NLP: We are beginning to enter the initial stages of consumer use of the AI-driven internet, AI everywhere is the angle that informs every other trend on our list. It plays into AR, VR, and merged reality, autonomous cars, the Internet of Things. We’re starting to see people getting used to AI as an assistant, but now we’re moving toward AI as more of a manager, proactively helping with tasks. If you go way back to the industrial revolution, we automated the easiest jobs and new jobs were created. What we’re seeing with AI is that jobs will change across the whole scale, because going from AI assistants to AI managers
- Cloud Technology: The back end of all these technologies will require big data hosting environments and tools to apply algorithms. Big data lakes are going to be requirements of every business.
Visual Tools, API and Machine learning will still have significant demand.
We know cloud technology has been around a while now, with more and more organisations having access – what impact has this had on your work and BI professionals both positively and negatively?
The biggest plus point for organizations within the cloud space is utilization/ developing of data lakes and collaborating within teams. Scoping/Building of Database has become a one click solution.
Hosting of email solutions and databases allow us to have everything at one place and its better for maintenance and contract negations. BI is always looking to be self-serviced and evolution of cloud gives that to end users.
What technologies do you think will have the biggest impact in the next 3 years?
Entertainment and media executives say it’s difficult to assess which data is truly useful for big decision making (32%). Thus, they’re seeing limits to using data and analytics more often. Yet for all the challenges, 72-75% have already changed their organizations’ approach to decision making because of data and analytics, and another 25% plan to do so.
Utilizing the right applications for concise, valuable IT solutions is an incredibly important facet of our business offering here at. From the right data visualization platform, to the right reporting software, IT and business certainly have a wealth of viable tech solutions from which to choose. As trends progress, mobile continues to experience growth in almost all aspects of enterprise. Thus, useful corporate mobile apps are experiencing a boom, and many of the tried and true applications of yesteryear are making strong appearances on the various mobile platforms of today.
Visualization tools continue to grow and one of the big changes this year would be implementation of self-service BI. Power BI needs will keep growing and require skills from Azure implementation to building of visual analytics layer.
Machine Learning and NLP will require skilled programmers to build AI layer.