The great big data debate

Why big data is more than technology in the marketing mix

Dr Eugene Kolker, chief data officer at Seattle Children’s Hospital Foundation Research Institute
Dr Eugene Kolker, chief data officer at Seattle Children’s Hospital Foundation Research Institute

Big Data is often described as a technology. But according to one of America’s foremost practitioners of data analytics, when it comes to putting together a top-flight analytics capability, the critical ingredient is people.

Dr Eugene Kolker is the chief data officer at Seattle Children’s Hospital Foundation Research Institute, where he has led numerous data-driven projects to assist in clinical delivery and management. During his 27 years of experience in data analysis, advanced analytics, and modelling he has won numerous accolades, including being named one of the US Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society’s top three innovators in 2015.

Speaking ahead of his address at the Chief Data Officer Forum organised by Corinium in Melbourne next week, Eugene said that while he has learned the importance of technology, it is actually at the bottom of his priority list.

“The first most challenging and highest opportunity is people,” Kolker said. “Then process is second, and technology is third. You need to align your team’s work with business strategy goals to bring business value. You are trying to influence decision making for better informed or data-driven decision making. And how you do this is through people.”

Indeed, Kolker said of all the reasons why an analytics project might succeed or fail, who leads the program came out as number one reason.

“You need to have people on your team who are able to interact with people, and enjoy doing that,” Kolker said. “Which is basically impossible - because those people are unicorns – they don’t exist. But you need to nurture this talent.”

According to Kolker, it is not surprising however that there is a lack of ‘people’ people in the analytics world. He said those more senior professionals have lived in a world of data and computing for many years, and they didn’t become data scientists because they liked people.

“If they liked people they would be doing something else," he added. “You don’t expect every data professional in your team to be ‘people’ people. We have data science people, software developers, and then we have ‘people’ people, which are the business people. And those unicorns.”

One of the other skills that Kolker brings into his teams is a writer, because he believes what is important is communication.

"Especially with those people who are not data or computationally challenged which is the majority of people we work with,” he said. “People don’t have time, so we need to delivery very clear and concise messages so people can dig into them and understand them. You need to deliver your messages very clearly, like stories. So we call them data stories.”

While the unicorns might be rare, Kolker says there is hardly an overabundance of data analytics skills generally – something he believes will continue to be the case for the next decade. The situation for Seattle Children’s is exacerbated through having to compete for talent with Amazon and Microsoft, while Google and Facebook also have significant offices in the region.

But regardless of location, Kolker considered building a strong data capability as essential to the survival of corporations in the 21st century.

“More and more your business and what you do is going to be defined by what data you generate and how you leverage it,” Kolker said. “That is going to be your competitive advantage, or disadvantage. “And most probably for the majority it is going to be a disadvantage. Are you and your organisation ready for that?”

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO Australia conversation on LinkedIn: CMO Australia, join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CMOAustralia, or check us out on Google+: google.com/+CmoAu

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Show Comments

Blog Posts

Putting the ‘human element’ back in marketing

During the recent CMO Momentum conference, Paul Mitchell shared how marketing leaders can create cultures that deliver

Paul Mitchell

Managing director, The Human Enterprise

The rise and rise of voice search

In 1982, an AT&T employee by the name of Plotzke predicted the rise of voice: “In fact, it has been predicted that, by 1990, well over half the communications dollars spent by businesses will be for products and services that include voice technologies.

Michael Jenkins

Founder and director, Shout agency

Is design thinking the answer for the next generation of marketing?

The speed and pace of change will never be slower than we’re experiencing today. So in this era of unprecedented change, how can brands meet soaring consumer expectations, stay relevant and deliver differentiated and connected experiences?

Merryn Olifent

Senior consultant, G2 Innovation

End your financial worriesAre you a business man or woman? And you are in need of an urgent loan as to start up your own business? Or do ...

lance

Kmart turnaround chief to exit Wesfarmers, Target

Read more

https://uploads.disquscdn.c... [magic school bus] KID: where are we going today MS. FRIZZLE: the zoo KID: but last week we went to SPACE ...

Germain3161

Sephora Asia details its journey to data-driven decision making

Read more

DP Apparel bietet große Auswahl Audi Rennbekleidung in Deutschland zu den besten Angeboten. Das Geschäft bietet auch qualitativ hochwerti...

DP apparel

Audi Australia gets a new CMO

Read more

this is a really great news

Vincent Mouton

Mobile-first banking startup showcases fresh brand identity

Read more

Prozac is the brand name of fluoxetine, a prescription drug used to treat depression obsessive-compulsive disorder, and panic disorder. B...

jenson smith

CMO's top 8 martech stories for the week - 19 July 2018

Read more

Latest Podcast

More podcasts

Sign in