Key Themes from 2017 Analytics Symposium - Chicago

By Jack Phillips, Oct 31, 2017

Earlier this month, IIA held its 8th Analytics Symposium and awarded the 2017 ANNY Excellence in Analytics Award to Cisco Systems in a packed house at the Gleacher Center in Chicago.

As at our spring Symposium in Silicon Valley earlier in the year, the fall Symposium agenda featured a marquee line up of analytics and data leaders from major firms like Morgan Stanley, UPS and Southwest Airlines, and concluded with a fireside chat with Tom Davenport and Jeanne Harris celebrating the launch of the 10th anniversary edition of Competing on Analytics.

A few of the key themes from the day included:

  • High performers are getting the job done through a managed blend of in-house and outsourced talent and resources. Deciding which data and analytics capabilities tasks “to own” and which capabilities “to rent” (outsource) is core to optimal workflow and operations.

  • Branding of the data and analytics effort is critical. Delegates heard from leaders at UPS and Southwest Airlines, both of whom used easy-to-remember brands (ORION at UPS and Baker at Southwest) to drive adoption campaigns. At Southwest Airlines, the COE (Center of Excellence) branding didn’t send the right cultural message, and COP (Community of Practice) gained more attention.

  • Machines will not replace humans; augmentation is the true future. Leaders throughout the day reported on their exploration of advanced analytical technologies (AI, ML), but cautioned that their best wins internally come when these technologies make human decision makers better, rather than replace them.

  • Become an expert in change management. Gaining broad adoption of data and analytical decision-making across the enterprise is more of a long process of getting employees to change the way they work, and not about the technologies.

  • Giving credit to key business partners will win the day. Time and again, the humble data and analytics leaders IIA supports all nodded toward highlighting the business gains of the internal business stakeholders over achievements achieved by the data and analytics team.

“We don’t have an algorithmic problem, we have a business problem…Our goal is to aid, not replace, the wealth manager inside Morgan Stanley.”

Jeff McMillan, Chief Analytics & Data Officer, Morgan Stanley summarizing the role of analytics, AI and machine learning to the firm. McMillan stressed that the data and analytics capabilities are most successful when positioned as enabling or augmenting the human work of any thriving enterprise, whether that be doctors in the medical field, designers at apparel companies, or wealth managers in financial services.

“Let your business partners win…let them take the credit and be in the limelight.”

Jeff McMillan, Chief Analytics & Data Officer, Morgan Stanley on what has made him most successful working with internal business stakeholders who can be skeptical about the power of data and analytics to improve their performance.

“This continues to be a challenge for us. We’ve had multiple teams working on our data foundation, and we are looking at handing this off to a third party once that is stabilized.”

Sri Srikanth, Advanced Analytics Manager, Cisco reflecting on their blend of in-house and outsourced resources.

“Sometimes it’s hard to be the math guy in the love airline. People will say, ‘Gee, things were working pretty well before you got here, what will you do differently?’ We’re changing the culture to be a fact-based, test and learn culture…let the data speak. If you don’t have data, you’re just another person with an opinion.”

Doug Gray, Director of Enterprise Data & Analytics, Southwest Airlines discussing how he and his team are working toward changing the culture inside Southwest Airlines.

“We are a digital native, just over 1,000 days old. Grease monkeys are our key source of IoT data.”

Adam McElhinney, Head of Data Science, Uptake Technologies discussing the work Uptake is doing on behalf of many of their supply chain clients.

“Seconds add up to minutes, and in our business minutes add up to millions.”

Jack Levis, Senior Director of Process Management, UPS quantifying the value to UPS of the ORION analytics routing algorithm.

“I do see AI as part of the analytics family, not as something different…about 90% of what firms are doing with AI is statistical in nature. Deep learning, neural networks, most machine learning…it’s is all statistical. Most organizations would be well served to view it as a straightforward extension of the analytics capabilities.”

Tom Davenport and Jeanne Harris, Co-Founder, IIA and Authors in answering the common question IIA hears about whether AI and analytics are fundamentally different, or extensions of each other.

By all accounts, a great analytics conference chalk full of actionable insights, leading practices and excellent networking. Stay tuned for details on the upcoming spring Symposium in April 2018.

About the author

Author photo

Jack Phillips is a noted advisor and writer on the impact that business analytics and big data have on enterprises. Mr. Phillips founded the International Institute for Analytics (IIA) with Tom Davenport, and currently serves as its CEO. Mr. Phillips edited the 2012 book Enterprise Analytics: Optimize Performance, Process and Decisions Through Big Data.

In his work at IIA, the leading independent analytics research firm, Mr. Phillips focuses on how the adoption of data and analytics by certain firms leads to competitive differentiation and higher performance. Mr. Phillips speaks frequently on cultural changes, organizational models, talent acquisition and the requirements of new leaders in a data-driven world.

Mr. Phillips is a graduate of the Harvard Business School and Williams College, and lives with his wife and three children in Portland, Oregon.


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