A funny thing happened at my final interview to join Accenture. The MD took one last long look through my CV and said “So, you are really an Analytics person”. I panicked. The game was up. She had removed the management consultant mask to see my inner geek. Ah, well. Time to get my coat. Didn’t want the job anyway. But then – and to my astonishment – it became clear that she meant it as a compliment. Analytics is a strategic area to Accenture. When could I start?
Move forward a good few years and Analytics is now a fashionable business buzzword. McKinsey talk of a shortage of 140k Analytics professionals in the US. Harvard Business Review called Data Scientists the sexiest job of the century. There are stories of 12 year old girls replacing the One Direction posters on their bedroom wall with ones of Paul Erdős. Okay, maybe that last one isn’t 100% true, but you get the point.
Dublin, which is my home, provides a wonderful microcosm of the growth and opportunity in Analytics. One of Accenture’s global Analytics hubs is based here and we are good way to growing to 100 Analytics experts. Dublin is Accenture’s global centre of excellence for fraud analytics. We also deliver a variety of other customer-level analytics services across the UK and Ireland. Similarly, SAS, Microsoft, Aon and Google to name a few are all prioritising Analytics locally. Dublin is a great place for Analytics professionals.
The scale of this Analytics opportunity is massive and will impact the careers of many. It also requires thousands of people to change their career choices and more towards more numerically based qualifications and ultimately jobs. People need to see Analytics as the right career choice for them. This is very different from the advice I got from my career councillor who thought doing a maths degree meant that I would automatically become a teacher. (Which many of my friends did become and is a great job. It just isn’t for me.)
To help make a tiny contribution to this shift, I just want to embrace my inner geek and shout that I genuinely love working in Analytics. This profession has provided a good salary, opportunities to travel and many interesting real life problems to work on and solve.
Here’s a look at the places I’ve been able to explore in my work in Analytics:
To illustrate, here are a few examples of the many projects I have been lucky enough to be involved in over the last 18 years.
One of my Master’s theses was on simulating the motion of a helicopter. I used applied mechanics to develop algorithms for the thrust generated by the propellers and then analysed many different journeys to better understand what forces the pilot was required to make to follow that path. The big thing that stood out was how difficult helicopter flight is. Even the simplest of journeys requires an incredibly complex set of manoeuvres. Respect to all helicopter pilots.
For one client, we were asked to estimate their future requirement for hospital beds for the next 15 years. The answer depends on many demand (population growth, epidemiological rates, consumerism, etc) and supply (referral patterns, new technology developments, hospital efficiency improvements, etc) factors. Critically, it also requires clarity on what services you expect to deliver from the hospital. Hence, the project became more about using Analytics to inform the optimal health strategy for the country. The final report was presented by the Health Minister to the Cabinet and much of it is now adopted as the health policy for the country.
I have also worked across many projects using discrete event simulation to help design optimal operational networks. This is a particularly useful technique, which better connects operational processes and expected volumes with capacity levels and the resulting service quality. It gets used often for planning call centres. We have also followed similar approaches to plan full postal networks, manufacturing factories and application processing centres. One of the big positives of this approach is that is visual and so intuitive. Operational Managers see the future design of their organisation and get involved to test a variety of potential alternative scenarios. As a result, you end up with a far more evolved and understood operational design.
More recently, much of my work has been around fraud and non-compliance. Fraud is a massive issue across the public and private sector with the National Fraud Authority estimating it costs the UK £73billion per year. Analytics can play a massive part in helping reduce this loss. We are proving it across a variety of areas, including tax collection, social welfare payments, insurance claims and supplier non-compliance. However, fraudsters are a clever bunch and are developing new and innovative ways to steal. Our challenge is now to ensure that our Analytics insights keep up with the new frauds they will try and commit tomorrow.
As you can see from the projects I’ve just shared, and from the chart below, Analytics has afforded me the opportunity to touch many industry sectors and functional areas in the course of my work.
I am also excited about the new developments in Analytics. We are also using social media and other new data sources, such as location information, to develop great additional insights. However, there remains a massive amount of untapped opportunity here. This will also become easier to realise over the coming years as we continue to see processing power increase and storage costs reduce. The best business applications of Analytics are yet to come.
Hopefully, you found some of this interesting. My view is that Analytics is a great career choice and you should think about maybe joining us. It is the new sexy after all.
Paul Pierotti leads Accenture Analytics Health and Public Sector work in the UK and Ireland.
What experience have you had in the hunt for a rewarding career? Share you thoughts in the comments below.