PwC’s Darren O’Neill: ‘Data analytics strategies must be led by business need’

12 Apr 2019

PwC advisory partner Darren O’Neill. Image: Maxwell Photography

Irish CEOs need to decide if they are going to sink or swim in a sea of data.

Businesses must avoid the trap of building analytics or data management capabilities for the sake of it, and instead such projects must be led by a real business need.

That’s the sage advice of PwC Ireland advisory partner Darren O’Neill.

‘The conversation point needs to start off with what insights do you actually need’

O’Neill was speaking to following the publication of PwC’s recent annual CEO survey. It found that not only do CEOs in Ireland view the potential impact of AI as being greater than that of the internet, but many are in danger of floundering in a sea of the wrong kind of data.

Just 19pc said that the information they receive is adequate compared with 23pc for global decision-makers. Only 42pc believe they are ahead of competitors in terms of the ability to make decisions based on data and analytics, compared with the global average of 50pc.

Trust in data quality is essential

“It is unequivocal that CEOs believe that data and analytics and the ability to generate insights is fundamental to their business performance management,” O’Neill said.

“What is interesting in terms of an insight from the report is that only 19pc of CEOs believe that the insights they receive from their organisation are adequate, and that suggests that four out of five CEOs believe that the insights they are getting are inadequate, and that’s not an insignificant number.”

O’Neill said that this manifests in problematic ways, leading to a potential lack of trust in data quality, information gaps and a reliance on historical rather than predictive insights.

To get the best out of data and analytics, he said the conversation needs to be about understanding the levers of performance in the organisation.

“And that could be about, do we understand our customers’ preferences or needs, and how do we target our products and our services in a meaningful way to them? So, this concept of having broad brushstrokes or generic actions in terms of how you are managing or handling your customers, that doesn’t really cut it in today’s world.

“The conversation point needs to start off with what insights do you actually need. The next piece is really understanding. If these insights are provided to you, what action are you going to take?

“The reason that is important is, you need to able to establish the efficacy of the action that you take.

“This idea of building analytics or data management capability for the sake of it – again, that is not fit for purpose. It must be led by business need, it must be led by what insight are you trying to achieve and what decision or action are you going to take, and how do we measure the effectiveness of that,” O’Neill recommended.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years