On the Road: Data Down Under

By Jack Phillips, May 25, 2017

As the leader of a world-class service organization, I’m on the road a lot meeting with research clients and prospective customers alike. Each week I try to meet or speak with at least one team at IIA’s ever-growing group of high-performing research clients. I thought it was time to start sharing some field notes of what I’m seeing and hearing.

What’s the one thing that’s different this year? It’s the signs of intentionality and coordination enterprises are bringing to their analytics efforts. I see these signs both publicly (example, Ford Motor appointing their head of Smart Mobility as CEO this week), and internally as I meet with companies.

Last week I finished a trip to New Zealand and Australia, visiting with 10 companies from four distinct sectors in three major cities. 14 hours from Portland to Auckland is equivalent to three legs across the U.S. from west to east, but it was worth it.

On the personal front, I took in a few sights, but a highlight was the Museum of New Zealand’s fascinating reenactment of the role Aussie and New Zealand soldiers played in that epic WWI battle at Gallipoli. My favorite movie of all time is Gallipoli, so this was a special treat.

Here’s what I saw from an analytics perspective:

  1. Despite these two economies being relatively small on the global stage, there is a strong desire to use the analytics playbook developed in North America and Europe to quickly master high-performance analytics. “We have the luxury of starting a little later, and it’s important for us to learn from the mistakes of the more developed market players.”

  2. Similar to North American companies, low data and analytics literacy among business unit consumers is the major impediment to adoption. “Getting our business partners to consume the insights we generate is our biggest battle.”

  3. Slow and steady growth in capabilities and successes will win the day. “We’ve seen the stories of big upfront spending on data technologies not yielding the desired business and cultural results. We’re adopting more of a blended, agile approach to technology and capability introduction.”

  4. Enterprises in these markets are investing in the leadership and talent to get the job done. Across my small sample size of 10, experienced leaders are being recruited from other industries and other markets, and there are discreet talent development plans in place for data scientists and analytics professionals. “Sydney is a great place to work and live, and we are slowly solving the analytics talent shortage by importing.”

Two cultural elements struck me the most on my tour down under. The first is the universal thirst for know-how, for a complete understanding of how high-performers around the world are converting data assets into insights to improve business performance. I heard often the sentiment of being overlooked on the global technology map, the last ones to feel the heat of the Silicon Valley glow for example. But, the enterprises I met with in these two countries are committed to “curing the knowledge gap” when it comes to data and analytics.

The second is the strong sense of community and cooperation among NZ and AUS companies. “It’s a small world down here, and we have to work together to share what’s working.” Yes, of course there is thick competition between players in the major industries like financial services and transportation, but there is also a strong sense of collaboration between organizations…almost an informal national pride that links the players in these two markets.

So, here is my bold prediction: From a country-level analytics maturity perspective, New Zealand and Australia have the raw ingredients to leapfrog the larger geographies in achieving quantifiable business results. Of course, many enterprises suffer from legacy thinking (“I know how to run my business”) and systems (“My data is my data”), but in this particular part of the world, there is a unique cultural outlook that will be the difference-maker.

Photos from the road

Phillips at Phillip’s

My wife, Frances, joined me on my analytics adventure in New Zealand and Australia

The highlight of my visit to the Museum of New Zealand

The Auckland Sky Tower

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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