In this episode special guest Robert Sunker joins Brian Comerford and Nick Lozano to discuss leadership challenges in the age of data analytics and insights. Included in the conversation: where to start using data insights to drive the decisions shaping your business; how to embrace data, measure what matters, and rally the talent already within your organization to develop the skillful bench-strength necessary to develop organizational data literacy; and what questions as a leader need to be asked to best identify what opportunities are already housed within the data of your business. These and many other themes are covered in this chat focused on harnessing data as a corporate asset.

Robert Sunker
Executive Vice President
RevGen Partners

0:22 Intro
2:33 Data Literacy
5:58 Data Landscape
9:32 Building a Data Team
12:05 Starting the Data Conversation
17:13 Demonstrating Insights
21:30 People
24:11 Data Pitfalls
25:15 Sustaining Success
29:38 Should IT Own Data Projects?
30:57 Data should be owned by the organization
32:27 Cultivating talent
35:31 Where do things get off track?
38:21 Driving long term value
42:18 Whats next with data?
45:41 Recommended reading
48:16 Closing

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Brian Comerford

Nick Lozano
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Show Transcript:

Brian Comerford  0:14
Thanks for joining us for another edition of Lead.exe I'm Brian Comerford in Denver, Colorado.

Nick Lozano  0:20
And I'm Nick Lozano, in Washington DC.

Brian Comerford  0:22
Today we've got a special guest, Robert Sunker joining us. He is the Executive Vice President at RevGen partners, and has done a lot of work related to data analytics across multiple industry types, recognizing what all of the critical challenges are, that are facing organizations of all sizes, dealing with all sorts of flavors, of what data delivery brings us today. So with that, Robert, can you kick us off a little bit and give us some of your background? Talk about your role in your organization?

Robert Sunker  0:58
Gladly, No, thank you. And bye, thank you both for your time and the opportunity. I told Brian, I'm super proud and glad to know folks that create something new in the world and put new thinking out there. So to take your own personal time to to generate a podcast to get people thinking about leadership and technology. It's it's just great. So

Brian Comerford  1:18
thank you, sir. Yeah.

Robert Sunker  1:21
So that being said, I admit beyond being kind of the father, husband, family, man, my day job is a career consultant at this point, I joined red RevGen partners when we started in 2008. And we've been going at 11, going on 12 years next year. And having a great time, my role at the organization, since we've grown from about five to over 140 people is still wearing a lot of hats. But the main had I where every day is overseeing our offerings and solutions, our services, how do we go to market? How do we add value to to our clients in new and different ways. There's obviously a lot of consultants out there the world. So we have to do our part to make sure we're, we're good, great and doing things in a way that clients want to engage with us instead of all the other options out there. The data and analytics we call the analytics and insights is a huge part of our practice. It's not the only part. But it's, it's will always be valuable and is hopefully we discussed today. I think the data is the currency of this of this point in time in business in this part of our economy. So it's not going anywhere, is my point. So excited.

Nick Lozano  2:33
Very well said.

Brian Comerford  2:33
Well, thank you for the kudos. And we're equally as proud to have you be a part of the program here. So thanks for your time and for joining us with your own thought leadership. So one area of leadership challenge in the age of data analytics and insights that I come across regularly, is the lack of general data literacy within organizations and having conversations with other leaders who are struggling to figure out where do we even start? What's it about? Do we go from square one with curating our data and learning? You know, what, what do data quality methods look like? Do we start with designing what some of the outputs are that we want, as insights from our data? Help us walk through a little bit of what you experience with some leadership challenges around? what's what's the starting point to get into a data literacy mindset?

Robert Sunker  3:33
Yeah, and I do appreciate and I like the word data literacy, and the converse of that are the inverse sorry, of that is data driven culture? How do you get literate enough where the organization has a culture of appreciation and using data to help drive the organization? I think it's a fascinating conversation, because there is some plumbing parts to the conversation, there's some training and education. But as really interesting to also talk about the cultural change management side of it, too. We're talking about generational differences, that folks start with some have a deep appreciation from data, they were born digitally native, or born data and data native and other folks didn't have that experience in their career. So hopefully, we can get into all that. At that base level, I think you already hit on it, Brian is, is how do we get an organization even understand the basics around data. as a consultant, we have seen the first wave of Organzations, you know, have investment from organizations and getting their data in place, putting it somewhere, getting their hands on it. And that was the first BI wave, if you will, and a lot of organizations got a tremendous amount of value out of that. And some organizations are still struggling with doing that and getting value out of it. But we're basically ready for the second wave, which is taking that to the next level. And the way we look at it is organizations that don't think about business value of their data first, will get lost in the plumbing will get lost in the data management will get lost in the ETL, whatever, you know, technical angle of that I call the plumbing again, they get lost in that. So what we've done is we've flip that on its head and said, if we can't get to business value, if we can't make a different decision because of our data, which means we need an insight that helps us make a different decision, then why are we doing all of this? So that's, that's I think, I think that's what we're primed to start talking about. And some of our more progressive clients are already ready to engage in that conversation. So if you can get an organization to focus on the output of the data and what they're going to do differently with that data, then I think folks start talking a language that makes some of the technical side of data literacy a little bit more in its place. Does that make sense?

Brian Comerford  5:58
Certainly does.

You know, the when I think about what I see generally is a maturity curve related to that progression along developing that bench strength with data literacy. Like how you touched on, you know, the early days of business intelligence. You know, the funny thing is, I've, I've heard these terms thrown around for so many years now. It's, it's almost like cloud, right? And non relational databases, right, right back to where we started with a lot of these things. But you know, from a set of definitions, I like how you characterized the way that your practice delivers, including insights into the way that you you really present what your practice is about. Can you step us through a little bit, you know, what is that landscape? From a definition perspective, business intelligence, data analytics, informatics insights, you know, what does it mean to a leader who's really starting to try to develop a funnel, mental understanding what's even the vocabulary?

Robert Sunker  7:03
So I'm going to take a different direction than you think I will. But it all gets back to what you just asked, If I take a leadership view of your question. And say, as a leader, what opportunity sits in front of me, I feel like that's where you get the real data literacy, data culture, honestly, generational side of the conversation, if you're experienced leader, long in your career, you may not have grown up with the tools, technologies and access to data that we all do now. And so you had if you are all successful, you had to leverage your experience, you had to leverage your network, and you had to lever honestly some intuition about how to run a business and manage a business. Well, that's because you didn't have a tool. You know, before we had fire, what did we do, right? We learned and we adapted, but my point of that is, if you are a leader, that's, you know, where we are generationally, most of the leaders, running organizations are probably Gen X, if not, maybe still baby boomer. They're starting from a place of lack of capability, you know, like I said earlier early in their career. So that being said, you have to start thinking a little bit more broader and wider about how do I embrace this? Who do I need to call on deep within my organization to help assist with that, and you have to start thinking about data as an opportunity to run your business differently. Now, we all know, measure what matters, right? It's easy to put KPIs in place, I should say, it's easy to define KPIs for your organization that helps you manage it better. But the real art is in are they there? Right KPIs are they balanced? Are they customer facing are they only internal facing and whatnot. So as a leader, that's a huge daunting task, if you're not already data driven, is to figure out how to do it, where to do it, how to how to deploy that as kind of capabilities with an organization, there's, there's a lot of work to do. So as an organization, you know, that's, you know, we have all sorts of great folks with an organization from young millennials that get it to it that can provide the services and the tools to do it. Obviously, consultants are standing by to help advise an organization how to get into this into this practice, if you will. It's there's no shortage of folks that are there to help so but I think that leader has to start with their their own perspective on how to leverage data to either run their business or transform their business, if that's the case.

Nick Lozano  9:32
I really like that answer. In the way see, this is like, when firms kind of go down the the adventure of becoming data driven everything, they always kind of turned to IT, right. Because they were the team before who built the SQL server reports that that they wanted. And instead of thinking about where we're going to use the data, how we're going to drive insight is or that used to it. And I like that instead of just taking a bunch of data and dumping out the standard reports, it's looking back at these KPIs. And making sure that they're actually what you're looking for. So as we venture and new firms kind of start to come on with this. Should they be reaching out to to consultants or other people to kind of find out how to get this process started? Because it seems like from hearing you talk that it's not a one person undertaking, it seems like you know, you need a visit and business analyst, somebody who understands statistics, you need the IT guy who can, you know, manage the ETL tools and everything? What's your take on that?

Robert Sunker  10:31
If I feel like you set me up there, Nick, I mean, in my biases, of course, they stick out.

But in all honesty, we see organizations, very progressive organizations that have all the internal discipline and competencies they need, they may be just haven't stitch them together in a way that gets to the end result and gets gets the end game that they want to. So if a consultant can help stitch that together, great if a consultant needs to come in and help kind of add some skills and capabilities that they don't have, that can be a short term, fix that long term they need to take in house also. But at the macro level, if you look at how you get to those insights, how do you get to that business value, we look at it at RevGen, through the people process data and technology lens, all four of those pillars need to be addressed and aligned for you to get to that outcome. So you could have the best tools, you know, you could swipe your credit card and have the best BI tools and analytics tools. But that doesn't mean you have the skilled resources. And that doesn't mean you have the data governance programs in place to make sure you have good data and you're using the data wisely. And I could go on and on through all four pillars but but that's where often consultants can help is they can bring that broader perspective of how they all work together, and how to align the right pieces at the right time for your maturity as an organization to start making progress. Because the wonderful thing about analytics and insights, it's a never ending skill development, a never ending capability for an organization, you can never have too much information too much insight. You just have to focus your investment. So you get you get there faster.

Brian Comerford  12:05
I really resonate with the broad sort of holistic perspective of what kind of team you have to bring to develop this capability. And in particular, the fact that it's not one and done, I know that a challenge that I've experienced, is interacting with other business leaders who, you know, falling short of understanding, you know, I keep hearing this buzzword about big data. So we got to have some of that. Today, we've got a bunch of these reports, we spent a bunch of money on the SQL server licensing. And so what's it going to take, you know, now, now we've got the reporting in place, we're just going to build out some other stuff. And then we're going to have data analytics, right? Like, how long is that project, trying to help navigate around the sense that this is just, you know, a set up and that, you know, you build some reports, you script, some code, and pretty soon the way you go with data analytics, again, that's that's one of those cultural turning points, I think that can be really challenging. From a change management perspective, can you talk a little bit about where you start the conversation like that,

Robert Sunker  13:21
specifically, around the change management side of getting into this capability?

Brian Comerford  13:25
Helping to prepare other leadership really, to understand this is, this is not a one and done, this is really part of how you do business, long term, data is an asset, just like any other corporate asset that you may have. And you really need to start, you know, treating it as something that's part of the ongoing work process versus it's a project and we've got, you know, some consultants are coming on board for a while, we've got to BA a we've got some IT, you know, we're looking at 12 months, and then we're going to have this, you know, artifact at the end. And we can declare that we've got data analytics for our organization.

Robert Sunker  14:03
Yeah, I got you a good question. And it for what it's worth, if this is a little wisdom, or a little insight into the consulting market, I don't see a lot of organizations were specific, were particularly not selling a lot of build it, and they will come or build it, and there will be value projects anymore. The days of just going out and spending a year getting a data warehouse in place are long gone. And so already Our services are oriented to getting to that insight fast. And that's the first step Brian, I think if getting executives that may not even understand it, or worse resist it, is if we can give you an insight that you find valuable, you're going to want more. And so there's a little bit of you gotta prove it. And in the old days, I mean, there was hard work to do to get the plumbing in place, I won't deny that it wasn't intentionally, off off, off strategy to do all that work. Yet, that was just what you had to do to get some data in your hands. But now there's all these tools, technologies, agile approaches, that if I can get you an answer in a couple weeks, and you like it, then let's worry about turning it into an operational process, right? That you can use time and again, or maybe it was one question one time, and you're done. But if the first step in getting a team on board and appreciating the the value and the impact it can have is give them something that they want, let them react to it and go, Oh, yeah, I get it. Now I need that you just told me something about my customers I never knew before. Or this is why I'm not as profitable as I hoped to. So I'm a big believer, if you can prove it and show it, they're going to want more. On top of that, that you do have to educate them there. If you go back to the generational potential generational disconnect between those in charge versus those who are digitally native is we're in an era of more transparency and more trust wanted with an organization that you have to educate and and kind of overcome some of the traditional fear of sharing information and sharing data, even within an organization. One department doesn't necessarily want to tell the other department what's really going on under the covers, because historically, that was either frowned upon or hand slapping, you know, because, you know, there's just no upside to that. But that's not how we see more progressive organizations working, they're more open more transparent, the traditional department lines get a lot blurrier when you look at the world, through the eyes of the customer, or through the eyes of an end to end, you know, kind of process efficiency. So that education with that leadership team has to start around a new way of working a new a new level of potential transparency. And if you're not willing to measure what matters and then expose that, you're never going to get a better as an organization, and you're going to suffer the consequences of that in the long term, if not the short term. So those are the easy to say, really hard to do, right? I mean, you're trying to change minds, and you're trying to influence how executives think. And that's, that's a long battle. So when you show him how it works, like I said earlier, I think you start to get buy in a lot faster, because the fear of the unknown starts to break down.

Brian Comerford  17:13
I'm going to take it from kind of a different direction. So walk through a scenario where you've got an engagement with a leader who has very high expectations of how quickly we're getting the organization to predictive, right. I've heard about all this mystic we wha with this it stuff. You know, we've got artificial intelligence and robots running around all over the place in our systems, and Siri seems to know everything I want to do, Amazon already knows what I'm going to order next. That's the kind of predictive capabilities we want from our business. By the way, we've never gone through any data optimization process. But you're on the hook. Now, we're paying you the big bucks to come in for engagement. And we want our customers to walk in, we know everything about them from day one and know exactly how to sell to them.

Nick Lozano  18:08
And you forgot one part of that, Brian, all the data is in an Access database.

Robert Sunker  18:14
Hey it's not Excel.

So how do we help? or What is that? Or how common is that right now? You know,

Brian Comerford  18:24
I think it's just sort of throwing it out there for you to walk through, you know, how, how common is it? What is the conversation look like that might be different from what you were just talking about? Ultimately, you know, we know that there have got to be fundamentals in place to be able to, to demonstrate what any of those insights are. But, you know, you talked about getting to the insight as quickly as possible. What about when the expectations are so far out of range for, for what you know, sort of that first pass might look like?

Robert Sunker  18:58
So my academic consultant hat says, You you dive into all of the explanation, which you kind of you kind of teed up around, what capabilities, what disciplines what tools, what needs to go right for you to be able to leverage the buzzword technology, so the buzzword approaches. And that has to be part of the conversation, not our job as consultants is to educate and inform and provide that guidance. And I think a huge part of some of the buzzword, geez, Brian, around analytics, sorry, data science and AI and whatnot is around, it has to be around quality data in the trust of your data. So we can talk about that later. But we would be doing a disservice to promise any outcome based on any of these buzzword approaches, if we didn't talk about the quality of the data that goes into that. But we also know buzzwords get folks moving and acting. And so there's a little bit of, well, let's see, talk about what that really means. And let's maybe use your excitement about what this could do for you to get some of the basic plumbing and other variables, the other components you need on the table discussing, because then you learn it, whatever it took for you to trigger your excitement and your engagement and maybe doing something, let's use that as the platform for learning about the bigger picture. And so for example, it's not impossible, it's not wrong to start with some sort of predictive data science model. And like I said earlier, get to some determination if it's useful or not. And then go back and figure out how how to operationalize it. And maybe when you say, this is really valuable, and I want operationalize it, you realize your quality of your data needs to be better. And then you have the buy in to invest in that data quality initiative, for example. So to me, it's all about the end game. And if there's different ways of getting there and jumping on some of that excitement, great. But again, we wouldn't be doing our due diligence or our duty of just saying, Yeah, it's possible, let's go figure it out and not and not walking you through all the all the steps, whatever order you take to get there. So yeah, we try not to sell buzzwords, honestly, we often do not sell buzzwords, we often sell an education, if you will. But it certainly does get conversations going. And that's okay, too

Brian Comerford  21:26
There are plenty of buzzwords to go around.

Nick Lozano  21:30
Exactly. Now, I just wondered if you could touch on one of your pillars that you said, which is a process, right? A lot of times when people think of these, you know, we're going to go digital, we're going to go data analytics. And then they wonder why you're there asking questions about business processes, or how something goes through a flow? Are you able to touch a little bit on how your organization you know, helps with that pillar?

Robert Sunker  21:56
Yes. Glad to in fact, interesting choice Nick processes, usually the unsexy unfun one that.

But we think it's extremely important

variable of the whole conversational component. So part of that, honestly, is the sum of the traditional IT processes, right? intake, prioritization, which of these insights and BI reports for that matter, are the highest priority, so nothing new thinking there, right, just traditional prioritization, resource capacity assignment, etc. There's another side of process when you start talking about data governance and data quality that most most organizations are immature and insufficient, and that you need to have all those process governance processes in place and having an ongoing capability, not just the MDM tools and data quality tools, but all the processes that go around it. What we're also starting to see is in the, in the realm of fast analytics, or accelerated insights, is data operations. So equivalent to dev dev ops, and I'm not an expert in this area, not an architect. But there's a lot of investment going on right now and how to get data out faster. And we already know, between big data, unstructured data, etc, that the traditional ETL process that guaranteed you know, decimal perfect data quality, that's not irrelevant. It's extremely relevant, but it's only part of the overall picture. So we see data operations going away, going down going in a direction, where it'll be extremely important to focus on the process around your data, where it's coming from, where it's going, how good is it? Is it good enough to get to insight, etc. So I think that's a that's an area that's going to continue to grow and become more familiar with most organizations when they look at their data as part of a value chain versus just part of a ETFs process, if you will. So those are a couple of those are some of the main buckets, Nick, underneath the process side that we help clients figure out how to handle?

Nick Lozano  24:11
And what do you think are some of the pitfalls that you run into? When you're implementing this process changes or evaluating them?

Robert Sunker  24:20
It's no different than any business process improvement project, right? Is it a lack of understanding of what the process is? Or should be? So just basic, blocking, tackling step by step? And then is there clarity on the who's responsible and accountable for this process? And, you know, there's roles in that process that may be non departmental line assigned, right? It may be cross functional across enterprise. So just getting super clear around who owns the process? And then like any process, what's the definition of success? How do we measure that this process is working? So if its daily operations, what's our throughput? What's our quality? All those kind of good things? So it's really the traditional process view of the world is how do we know we have a good process? How do we know who's responsible for it? And how do we measure that it's working? And that goes for data quality, it goes for intake is prioritization and goes for date operations.

Brian Comerford  25:15
I think that's a good segue into a question that I've got for you around building a team to help sustain this long term, particularly during a period of time where, you know, if you've got data in any kind of degree or concurrent title, you're likely in high demand. And, and it seems, you know, like, it's one of the most challenging positions to place, you know, within any industry right now. We need data scientists, you know, no one knows why exactly. But apparently, that's the thing. That's the most in demand. And

Nick Lozano  25:50
there's this guy named Hadoop that we need to hire. Right.

Brian Comerford  25:56
So So can you talk a little bit about, you know, what's the best approach for starting to develop a team? You know, maybe to your chagrin, that, you know, consultants may not need to be engaged for the entire duration, right. But at some point, organizations need to be able to develop that maturity and that skill set internally, to be able to continue to carry things forward. So what does that whole process look like as someone's in that nascent stage of development?

Robert Sunker  26:25
That's a great question. And I'll preface it with my philosophy on the topic is, as a consultant, we can fish for you, or we can teach you to fish. But if you're in a services industry, and most likely any industry, I would have to think hard about what wouldn't let this comment, whoo, this comment wouldn't apply to but you've got to learn how to do this for yourself. So however, you engage your consultant, you got to get good at this long term yourself. So the question about how do you start to build that team, there is the thousands of different approaches to getting there, right? And it very much based starts with how many mature are you? And how mature Do you need to get very quickly? I mean, the traditional skills you need for a team like that are all the things you all your listeners probably already know, I need technical folks, right? I need data experts, I need BI tool, I need developers, I need infrastructure people. So the list goes on and on around the the technical side of skill development, you of course, also need a business analyst side. And that sounds like a role, but it's just a general skill, who's looking at the business critically and understanding what what I should be asking what questions I should be asking there for trying to go answer with data. But I think what makes it super powerful, and really embedded with an organization is all the other roles, skills and competencies beyond those two core ones, which is the actual business domain knowledge. And that has a leadership layer to it. So I needed some executive sponsorship, I need somebody that goes, this is important, all the traditional IT project learnings, right? All the way down into who really understands the customer who understands finance, if you're focusing this capability in one domain, like finance, or marketing or customer, then you need that representation, not necessarily at the data analysts business analyst level, but you need it from that domain knowledge. So those are all the ingredients of the team that you need to start developing. But that sounds big and scary. That doesn't, you know, it's not where you have to start. Honestly, you throw some data at one smart kind of data savvy person. And they can start what we talked about earlier, getting some insights and getting some traction and showing some value. That's why so many spreadsheets exist in the world, right? If somebody is doing something in there that was valuable. Now let's talk about operationalize it after the fact. So that's the kind of generic answer Brian to what are all the pieces of the puzzle. But if an organization really doesn't have much going on, or much of that team kind of defined, and you don't even really care where it sits, because it can sit in IT, it can sit in the finance group, it can sit in other places is where sometimes it's fedated across the organization, right? IT provides their services, and then all the the smart data, people are out in the departments. But wherever it sits, you need those core disciplines, you need those core competence competencies to get it started. And then you get into the traditional what your other podcast talk about, which is traditional leadership discipline is needed to kind of inspire and get folks aligned with why we're doing this and start the basically start the path down that journey. So again, I'll go back to that you need technical skills, and you need the business skills to come together, whatever form or fashion that looks like in your organization.

Nick Lozano  29:38
I really liked that point, you kind of drive back. I know, in my experience, when when you kind of start these data initiatives, driving insights, doing BI platforms, it almost always turns to IT owns this, it's a product instead of one, it should be looked at a whole and a business unit, you know, have a team of individuals from different areas and functions should actually own this product, not IT. And that's one of the biggest pitfalls I see most of the time. I don't know if your experiences kind of different. When you're when you're kind of out there day to day with boots on the ground? Are you seeing anything different?

Robert Sunker  30:12
No, that that's still very commonplace. Nick, I think what I'll be honest about when you see that it's a lack of business maturity around the value of the data. So they think it's an IT service, or they think it's an IT project product, because they don't understand yet what the power of data can do for them. If they did, they would embrace it, say thank you it for giving me some data, I want more. But that's not a lot of organizations that, that that level. Now you get into high tech startups, you know, Silicon Valley, they were built that way from the ground up. So they already get it. We're talking about more legacy industries and legacy service companies that need need to do a little bit more work to understand what what this can do for their businesses kind of get on the bandwagon, if you will.

Nick Lozano  30:57
And is there a way you can kind of, you know, if if somebody's organization comes to them, and they're they're an IT leader, they're like, you're IT you own? This? Is there? Is there a way you could probably kind of softly put it that this needs to be a business function unit? I mean, how are you going about that? When you get on a client engagement? They're like, okay, you know, we're going to do data clinic analytics and insights, and IT is going to own it. Is there a kind of a standard way you go about, you know, informing the business users that, you know, it's, you know, we're doing a data initiative, it should be owned by everybody.

Robert Sunker  31:32
It's a good question. And I'll be honest, I'm not as soft anymore. And my response to when when that when that situation arises, it's, it's a no brainer, it's this is your business, if you're the marketing group, or whatever. This is your responsibility and your destiny, if you will. So let's figure out how to partner with IT. Because we know you don't have the technical skills to do what they need to do for you. But if you think that this is their responsibility, good luck in, you know, succeeding, and your Aera or as a company overall. So I obviously can't say it that bluntly. But at the end of the day, when you look at the people pillar, the operating model that an organization needs to develop, again, it can start small, but ultimately, the operating model that develops around this, from the get go has to be a partnership. There's kind of no way around that. So it's a non starter to me.

Brian Comerford  32:27
You know, it's interesting, Nick, and I were working with a group of CFOs and finance managers last week. And as the question about resourcing came up, part of what you said, really resonated with, I think, how we were talking with a lot of those other leaders, really finding the talent and the interest from the outset, so that you find those people who have got some type of organizational understanding, to begin with, they've got some degree of acumen around, what does this world work entail, and then really using that as sort of your starting point for a resource pool, to start to develop this talent from within. So back to that idea of partnership and shared responsibility, right, you likely already have a lot of the talent to be able to develop this capability in-house, they just never had a role before that had some kind of technical identifier and what their title was, or some kind of data or business analyst, you know, type of title. But it doesn't mean that that can't be skilled up and you know, someone has both the interest in the fundamental business understanding can be trained into having a clear understanding of how to work around the governance around developing within a tool set. There's a lot of things out there today that make it easy for non technical people who have clear logical thought processes, to be able to make things out that gets you to some of those insights or deliverables really quickly.

Robert Sunker  34:06
It's a great point. And if you carve off advanced analytics, and just talk about traditional bi and analytics, we're not talking rocket science, you can see touch and feel all the pieces of the equation and go, Oh, I get it. And again, just focus on that output and that value. So you, of course, have folks in your organizations that are already more data literate and savvy, especially when you look into the younger generations. So you just have to capitalize on that. And I'll say, again, I don't care where you put it, it could be an analytics team, it could be an IT function could be spread across the entire organization, you just have to align it so that it's producing value, and not to chopped up into fragmented. Finance has traditionally been the analytics functions of an organization, because they were always the one that cared about the data, what it was said and where it's going. So they're historically the most mature. Now they're going through the phase of how do they take finance analytics to the next level, marketing is quickly caught up because of the world of data that's available to marketers, sales is quickly catching up, etc, etc. But the point is, if they have pocket of excellence, an existing department leverage that as a seed, to take it broader across the organization, and not just siloed in one group or one department. So, again, this is to me all about getting started and then let the maturity happen. So whatever it takes to get started, go for it.

Brian Comerford  35:31
Well taken, what are some of the failure rates that you see with some of the organizations that you may have had an engagement with or, or just in general, that, you know, as, as folks are really starting to get the ball rolling with this, where things get off the tracks?

Robert Sunker  35:50
Yeah, and I'll, I already said it earlier, but legacy data warehouse projects, and all that failure rate was high. And it may not be that the technical, you know, project failed, it just made, it's likely the business value failed, everybody is heard it took too long, I can't get what I need, I just want one more field, it's going to take six months. I mean, I can't put a percent to that. I'm sure it's out there and some research, but it's high, right? The business value failure rate was high, even if the technical failure rate wasn't high. this day and age I, you know, embracing the agile approach, failure rate, prison percentage is lower, I'm sorry, may not be lower, but the investment last is lower. So if we're going to fail, let's fail fast. If that insight didn't work, move on if the insight work, but it just doesn't need to be operationalize, move on to the next thing. So I think we're in an era where we're embracing agility and speed to the point where the failure still may be there. But it's acceptable, because I'm not over investing in in the question I was trying to answer, I can just move on to the next thing faster. And ideally, more things for me, I have more capacity, if I work that way, too. So the trapping this day, you know, is still that business value focused, we still walk into organizations, even if they're more agile and ready to move faster, that don't really start with a question in mind and insight that they want. So we'll spend a lot of time with organizations just navigating and doing workshops around use cases. And, you know, why aren't you ask them questions about your customer experience? or Why aren't you asking these kind of questions with your finance data? And so the failure rates, I think, are still tied up with, you know, not having the business maturity to ask the right business questions, the technology is just getting better and making that part of it even easier and faster. So

Nick Lozano  37:44
I like that, I think you made a valid point. I think a lot of times when when we do some type of analysis of either customers or clients or whatever, a lot of time we we frame it and what we think the customer client wants, instead of actually asking the customer a client, is this what you're looking for? You know, I've seen that a lot through my career, and I'm sure you probably see that a lot in your consulting engagements, instead of you know, assuming, you know, the reason why something's being done, and you haven't asked anyone, and I feel like customer experience is is a very important thing as well.

Robert Sunker  38:18
Yeah. Agreed.

Brian Comerford  38:21
You know, there's a, you know, to your point about, you know, really identifying that why, right. I think that part of the success that I've seen in some of the engagements that I've had with other business leaders around this topic, has really been ensuring that you're bringing together that partnership, right, who are all those necessary players? And that you're assembling it around that common set of goals, driving towards, you know, what are some of those insights were ultimately we're trying to look for some of those answers. But then also having some some very front conversations around? What are the priorities? How are those different for each of these various factions that may have to be a part of that partnership? where are some of the assumptions that we're coming from already in terms of either what kind of technology we've got in place, what kind of data quality we've gotten place? You know, what types of resources or skill sets that we have that can help us continue to drive this long term? And then really, just again, having the upfront conversations around some of those implementation risks? Yeah, happens when you know, x occurs, what's, you know, how many checkpoints we're going to have to review and assess along the way?

Robert Sunker  39:44
It makes sense. And I guess what I would add to your, to your statement, Brian, is what we tried to do. Step one is identify the case for change, that is the umbrella over the whole initiative. And so a case for change, could be very strategic, or it could be very tactical, but whatever it is, that case for change for that organization, is something everybody can get behind. So maybe we had a bad year, maybe we're getting terrible customer SAT scores, we can all agree that we want to do better than that, right? Or maybe it's more, like I said, strategic or aspirational, is there's a new business division over here, we could stand up if we just went and did XYZ. So if you can get something like that, that isn't about a long list of complaints, or isn't just about a technical issue, then then you get the business and IT all kind of in others all lined up and ready to march in a direction. The hard work is what is that direction? What is that plan? Right? What are all the pieces that you just referred to, in what order of operations do I tackle those in so that I actually get forward and go forward and get somewhere that I want to get. So I just want to throw that in that case for change, whatever it is, is an extremely important part of the change management process. And getting folks on board with the investment that they're going to have to commit to the time they're going to have to give, but also the ability to kind of smooth out the the road bumps that are eventually inevitably are they are going to hit the thing I've always loved about the analytic space. And again, RevGen does other kind of digital solution work too. But the thing about analytics is, it's not as scary big waterfall big, you know, go No, go, you put it in had to replace an old system, it worked or it didn't work, right. It's this ongoing evolutionary maturity that with the tools and technology these days, you can get into it and start and then get better and better. And so some of the setup of big classic failures of an IT systems project, aren't there, if you go about it, you're they're not built in, if you go about it, this more kind of agile, fast way. But yeah, you'll still do something wrong, something will break, some data won't be good enough. And nobody will notice until you know, put some report out on the street or something. Right? I mean, that those those problems do happen. But if you focus on the people process and data around it,

usually can mitigate those risks.

Brian Comerford  42:13

Nick Lozano  42:13
I don't know about you, but I don't ever do anything wrong.

Robert Sunker  42:15

Brian Comerford  42:18
Case for change. It sounds obvious, but you know, I don't often hear it characterized in that way. So, you know, thank you for bringing that forward, it seems like a simple but very necessary step in the process. Talk a little bit if you could about what's next, you know, so let's say, you know, the world has evolved their data capabilities, you know, industries are humming along, we've got good data quality, a lot of the things that we've been talking about so far today, they're already kind of baked into a that everyone knows this. I mean, this is the these are the obvious things about how we do business, what's what's next.

Robert Sunker  43:00
So you could definitely jump into the advanced analytics and augmented analytics, and how a lot of the hard work we've been doing for the last decades, will all of a sudden be automated for us, right? You don't have to hard code all of that the tools will just do it. So I mean, that's a whole podcast in itself around Where's advanced and augmented and looks going, and what are the risk and trip tripping points in that dimension, you know, at a high level, our organization is investing rapidly and heavily in being ready for clients to want Indeed, those kind of solutions. They're already here, it's not a feature conversation, just not as many organizations even if they asked for the buzzword are really ready for it. So being prepared to talk about the the variables that make those solutions, good, like data quality, like trust, like you know, proving algorithms actually are producing accurate answers, all the things that go with that data science world. That's, that's here, that's now we're just ready for more organizations to want that kind of help. The other side of it is honestly BI has benefited a lot from a huge investment over the last decade plus, because organizations were so transactional, Lee focused on their yuppies and whatnot, that they didn't invest in the overarching enterprise. end to end value that bi can give. So what we now see is not any diminishment diminishing of the value of BI and analytics and whatnot, but actually a better representation across investments in the customer experience and aligning those to the right digital solutions to serve customers and serve employees. So analytics will take its place and doing the measurement of the customer experience or the measurement the employee experience, but will also do you know provided service of making sure digitally digital solutions are the right ones, the right, the right products for for customers, or employees to do their jobs, etc. So I see analytics and insights being less of an standalone discipline. And that's hard to say it's been a standalone discipline today, it's it's a fabric, but at the end of the day, I think it'll become more critical and therefore more embedded in these other disciplines in these other areas, it'll just be part of it, it won't be a special project or be an add on solution that it owns and runs, it'll just be part of how what we do what we do. So that's kind of high level philosophy there. But at the end of the day, all of this is going to merge together and not be standalone.

Nick Lozano  45:41
You sound like you just booked yourself for another episode of a podcast. So do you have as we're getting to wrap up here, do you have any books or anything that have been influential on you, through your career don't don't have to be business driven, or anything like that, that you recommend to people or gift often?

Robert Sunker  46:04
Yeah, there's a leadership one I go to all the time. And Brian will know it, because we talked about it. But it's from purpose to impact. It's it's actually just an article, Harvard Business Review article from a few years ago, I thought it did a really good job of talking not just about leadership, or about purpose, but how to drive purpose through your leadership to make sure you're making an impact. So I, I recommend that article left and right to folks that are looking to refine or maybe even just identify for the first time, what really drives them, and how do they kind of maximize their, their impact on the world, through their strengths and through their capabilities. So highly recommended. It's not even a long read. But it's a was very powerful for me at a point in time. And then the I guess I'm more of a podcast and article reader,

Nick Lozano  46:57
you know, and anything like that anything you have doesn't have to be any recent media,

Robert Sunker  47:01
any media. There was one on Ted radio a few years ago around the digital Industrial Revolution. That was probably there's many other podcasts like that, but it was the first one that turned my brain on to the fact that we're in a new era. It's not just technology is getting better. We're actually in a new era, that, you know, AI will be the electricity of, you know, the there before. And so, again, I think sometimes the best articles are just you heard them at the right time at a point in life to ignite a new way of thinking, and somebody else will really go That's nothing. But those, those two are both good resources that I go back to and think, Oh, yeah, it actually made me think differently. So yeah, lots lots of good stuff. I can tolerate short bits of information.

I get it where I can through articles and podcasts. So

Brian Comerford  47:57
I can attest to the the power of that from her the same track article that you've shared with me. So I'm glad that you mentioned that one.

Nick Lozano  48:07
And that's a HBR article. You said yeah, yeah.

Robert Sunker  48:09
Just search it. And I'm sure it'll pop right up. It's not even that old.

Brian Comerford  48:16
So I know, another wrap up question that we typically ask is how can folks find you?

Robert Sunker  48:22
Yeah, find the definitely LinkedIn, just a normal LinkedIn URL, and then put Robert-Sunker at the end. Definitely can go to, I'm on the About Us profile page there. I think it gets me back to link get you back to LinkedIn also. So definitely hope I love to network love to meet new people and understand different points of view. Obviously, we're in a client service model. So that also is part of how we get to know new organizations. But gosh, the power of the power of network and the power of affiliating with other people of different mindsets and different walks of life is is always fascinating to me.

Brian Comerford  49:01
So I think we share a common set of values there. Well, thank you very much, Robert, this has been a real pleasure to have you. It's always a pleasure to speak with you. And I'm glad we got to have you as a guest. You've shared a lot of valuable insights, I think.

Robert Sunker  49:18
Well, I hope so. And I, again, I'll say again, I super appreciate both you one inviting me into producing this and I hope your listeners are getting a lot of value. Again, maybe being inspired to think about something different. So keep up the great work.

Nick Lozano  49:31
Appreciate it. Thank you for your time. Thanks, Robert. Thanks.