Businesses are realising the power and value of data analytics
Bermudian entrepreneur Paul McLeod has been preaching the data analytics gospel for more than two decades – and the business world, here and elsewhere, is catching up.
Mr McLeod is the founder, president and senior data architect of award-winning local firm, Bespoke Analytics.
The company helps clients to develop an overall business intelligence strategy, leveraging their data in order to realise returns on their investment in data management.
Bespoke identifies the sources of clients’ own data, advises them on the tools to use, and builds a system to pull the data together so that it can be leveraged for the organisation’s competitive advantage.
Mr McLeod says: “We are building them their data environment. It’s a specialised area in technology.”
From being relatively undervalued and unknown, data analytics has become a boom area, driven in part by boundary-pushing giants like Amazon, Google, and Facebook.
As awareness of data analytics’ value has grown, Bespoke has been riding the wave, evolving from a software company into a full-blown specialty analytics business building solutions for clients including members of Bermuda’s retail, wholesale, re/insurance, and finance industries – as well as Government.
Mr McLeod was an early believer in the power and value of data.
After earning a bachelor of science degree in computer science from Florida Institute of Technology, he graduated from Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh with a combined bachelor of engineering (honours) degree in information systems engineering – an intense combination of electrical engineering and software engineering.
Mr McLeod worked in Scotland as an application developer/data warehouse developer for a company that provided data solutions for the manufacturing industry before returning home in 1994.
However, the market on the island was not nearly as mature as in the UK.
So Mr McLeod worked for four years at the ACE Group as a senior application developer/data warehouse architect, a year at Butterfield Bank as an application developer in retail banking, and spent a year as a software consultant before venturing out on his own nearly 22 years ago because he wanted the services he offered to be the main driver of the organisation he worked for.
He said: “I have been on a journey to illustrate what can be done with data, how it can be leveraged within an organisation, because I have always worked in that space.”
Mr McLeod added: “It was always a passion of mine, but there has not always been awareness – in Bermuda, but also globally. My peers in London and New York face the same things.
“A lot of the sales process is about education, helping clients to understand what leveraging data can do for them … building the business case.”
Broadly speaking, data analytics involves the analysis of raw data in order to find trends and answer questions.
Descriptive analytics answers questions about what has already happened; diagnostic analytics tells why those things happened; predictive analytics tells what will happen in the future; and prescriptive analytics tells what should be done about it.
The level of the analytics ladder that an organisation is on depends upon where they sit on the data maturity scale.
Mr McLeod says: “At the top end, you are looking at prescriptive analytics. It depends where you are on the journey.”
Many companies do not have a person on staff familiar with data analytics.
Mr McLeod says: “So we help them envision the journey they can go on.”
He advises clients that the introduction of data analytics technology into their organisation will require people to start working differently; a company’s processes must change as its senior management begins to think differently about data.
But the benefits of putting an infrastructure in place to leverage data can be enormous, Mr McLeod said.
He added: “It’s an evolution. As you leverage data, you realise its potential and what you can do with it – and that is what makes it exciting.
“Clients start to see a trend in data they were not aware of, and that allows them to sell in different ways, or it allows them to price in different ways.”
The growing appreciation of data’s value – and the corresponding growth in firms like Bespoke – is driven by a variety of factors, Mr McLeod says.
They include the increasing availability of technology at a much lower price point, a generational change at companies’ senior management level as younger leaders have a greater appreciation of what can be done with data, and the greater regulation and compliance demands placed upon organisations.
Mr McLeod said the more recent growth of Bespoke, and the industry generally, is due in part to the concept of the “modern data estate”, which unites and fully leverages an organisation’s data.
He said: “It allows organisations to think holistically about their data.”
Bespoke has “embraced” that concept, Mr McLeod said, and has leveraged tools to help its clients, including TimeXtender, data automation software that gets data ready for analysis.
Mr McLeod said use of the platform allows Bespoke’s clients to create and manage a data initiative up to 70 per cent faster than was previously the case.
He said: “It’s a transformative piece for us. It accelerates how quickly we can build solutions for clients.”
Bespoke’s use of TimeXtender was recently acknowledged by the company, which honoured the local firm for having the best sales and marketing activity in the Americas last year.
Looking to the future, Mr McLeod said he is seeking to expand Bespoke’s workforce of eight people via a graduate training programme.
He said: “We are looking for smart talent to grow. It is a career path in Bermuda; you need to be near the business people who have to consume the data. You can’t ‘offshore it’ easily.”