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Q&A: Sage’s global analytics manager on why the European attitude to data has to change

Ahead of his presentation at the Chief Data Officer Summit, part of the London Data Fest, on 16th and 17th November, we spoke to Maciej Piwoni, global analytics manager at Sage about his work and the current challenges facing big data.

As global analytics manager at Sage, Piwoni develops and executes global digital analytics strategy for his company as well as mentoring the modeling and marketing performance teams. With 10 years of hands-on digital analytics experience and 14 years of internet-related experience, he is a strong advocate for agile marketing based on data and logic. A creative yet data-driven digital analytics professional, Piwoni has a proven track record in the analytical environment, including optimisation, insights, data storytelling, communications and budget management.

What do you think are the biggest challenges in leading data-driven change in a company?

I would point out three biggest challenges faced by the majority of the companies:

  • The quality of data – Having good quality data, democratically available throughout the organisation. Modern companies generate a vast amount of information on a daily basis. Unfortunately, it doesn’t mean data is readily available. This creates problems as good quality, accessible data is the backbone of any data-driven change in the company.
  • Finding smart people – Recruiting skilled individuals is challenging but the bigger challenge is the internal structure and stakeholders.
  • Commitment to act on data – Is this commitment present in everyone from C-level staff members to line managers? Some companies simply rebrand BI teams as data science and treat them as a support function. Data science teams should be parallel to the BI function instead.
  • Acting on insights – This is the final pitfall of implementing data-driven change in the company. Switching to using information and insights to drive informed actions is not easy. Transforming into a data-driven organisation requires an entirely different approach to management and decision making. It challenges status quo – I see this as the biggest challenge.
Maciej Piwoni

The CDO role is relatively well established in the US, but less so in Europe, do you think this is likely to change?

We need to understand the context of CDO role in the company. A lot of very successful tech companies originated in the US. With the culture of startups and high level of pragmatism, data was recognised as one of the key differentiators – hence the rise of CDO function. This sets a benchmark on how we perceive this role now.

I believe the European mindset has to change. Data is becoming a secret weapon of many startups and mid-size companies. This is almost a battle of David with Goliath. Small agile, data-driven companies challenging bigger players. Innovate and be data-driven or fall into oblivion. I see more and more European companies catching up.

You moved from predominantly marketing roles in your past, has this given you a unique insight into data use?

Absolutely, it gave me a great appreciation of data-driven decisions. Marketing is one of the areas that started to produce a high volume of quality, real-time data, readily available to everyone who is willing to consume it. It was truly a breakthrough moment.

The data-driven decision became a paradigm for marketing. It also became one of the areas where smart use of data made a big difference. A/B testing, dynamic personalisation, machine learning to name a few, are an integral part of marketing. I believe that those best practices will spread to other teams in the business.

What unique data challenges have you found from your work at Sage?

Sage is a global technology leader. Over the last two decades, company acquisitions played an important role in fueling the growth but with successes come challenges. The biggest one is a federation of data, technologies, and processes. Different markets and products tend to use ‘the best’ technologies in their respective spaces. This may produce a real headache when we are trying to understand data globally. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication to tackle it.

Another challenge is the legislation around data privacy. Being a global company means that you have to comply with local laws and legislations but at the same time, you need to give your customers a seamless experience when they navigate through your online landscape.

What can people expect to take away from your presentation at the summit?

There is a big gap between a blank sheet of paper and usable ideas. I am going to show how to come up with usable insights and how to kick off data-driven decision process (or how to become data-driven organisation). You will also learn about pitfalls to avoid and real life examples.

You can hear more from Maciej, along with other industry leaders, at the Chief Data Officer Summit. You can view the full agenda here and secure £200 off with the code TCN200 by registering here.

The London Data Fest returns this November, featuring both the Big Data & Analytics Innovation Summit and the Data Visualisation Summit, as well as the Chief Data Officer Summit. Visit the website for more information.