Data Science As the Art of the Possible Interview With Charles Radclyffe, CEO of BIPB

Charles Radclyffe

“We’re living in the final days of the pre-data driven world. Analytics, both to drive improved human decision making and to drive intelligent, so-called, ‘smart’ machines will permeate all aspects of our lives. From cradle to grave our lives will create data, and whether the use of this data will enrich our lives or threaten us – is up to how we think about the challenges today.” Charles Radclyffe

From his student days at Cambridge until becoming the CEO of BIPB, Charles Radclyffe´s rich life journey led him finally to the immense world of data science, as the CEO of  BIPB, a renowned global Big Data and Analytics Consultancy Firm, that was founded in 2005. Since 2010 that the company organizes #drivenbydata Summit, an interesting and important event about Big Data and Analytics, that will occur in London next week, the 20th of March, at level 39. #drivenbydata is a quarterly Summit that gathers together the best thought leaders and professionals interested in Big Data to discuss issues concerning Big Data & Analytics developments.

Intelligenthq interviewed  Charles Radclyffe concerning his career, his journey working as CEO of BIPB, the summit and his unique vision concerning Big Data.

1. Could you introduce yourself and tell us a bit about your background?

What I often find amusing is that in telling my ‘story’ it doesn’t at all seem clear that the path I have chosen is the one I ought to have followed at an earlier stage. The good thing is that in my role as CEO of BIPB I can trace all the skills and experience that help me do my job effectively to my earlier endeavours. I studied Law at Cambridge although never practiced it as a profession. I had always been fascinated by the opportunities technology created for society, and so it seemed natural to start my first IT business rather than jump on the career ladder. In fact, I started my first business before I even took my place at Cambridge – having budgeted very poorly for my gap year, I found myself back in my hometown after just four months abroad – and penniless! Well, not quite penniless- I still had £50, but I used this to advertise my services as an IT support engineer, and got lucky. Five years later, I had sold this business –the largest of its kind in the Westcountry – and having graduated also. Next I worked in the AdTech industry for a small Affiliate Network that we later sold to a large Direct Marketing business. Following this, I spent a couple of years in Banking – this is where I first was introduced to BIPB’s founder – and we agreed a few years later that I would succeed him as CEO in order to put my energy to growing our Consulting business.

2. Can you tell us about BIPB? How has the company evolved, what are it present and future challenges?

Our business has evolved greatly in the five years I’ve been part of it. We originally focused on a single technology product, and were experts in this. It was a very simple strategy and worked very well, but over time it was clear that our clients were calling on us for a broader range of services. When we ask our clients what their biggest challenges are, we hear the same stories. Our clients are looking for how to unlock transformational business value from their data much like companies such as Netflix or Uber have transformed their industries using analytics. Our clients are also looking for a trusted advisor who can help them make sense of the technology landscape. Our Enterprise clients aren’t just looking to implement and integrate the latest Hadoop variant – they are looking to build a Centre of Excellence for Big Data – platforms for analytics, and they want it robust, scalable, secure and performant. Thirdly, our clients are struggling with the massive skills shortage that exists in the Data Science/ Analytics industry. We know we need to create new skills in the market, and we know that the best work we do is face to face with our clients. That’s why we’re investing heavily in our relationships with top educational establishments and hiring some of the brightest minds and strongest personalities we can, training them in Data Science and Analytics so we can better serve our clients. This is what our mission is today.

3. BIPB has been organizing the #drivenbydata Summit for the past 4 years. Can you tell us what led you to start the summit, and what you have learned with the experience? 

We started the Summit originally as a day to share ideas, skills, and best practice with our own team – who we very rarely manage to get together as they are always so busy out solving our client’s challenges. The next step in the Summit’s evolution was when our clients started asking us if they could send other people along. We knew we couldn’t refuse this – but we were initially wary of the impact this might have on our initial intentions. From the feedback we received, it quickly became clear that hearing the art of the possible was the main draw most of our clients had to our event. We’ve since found it’s become a virtuous circle: the more we focus on the quality of the presentations, the higher audience we attract – and the more competition there is for people to who want to present!

4. What can we expect from this year´s summit? Can you highlight some of its speakers?

Our first Summit of 2015 will be our best yet – simply by virtue of the great speakers we have. Our keynote is Neil Chandler who many people will recognise as one of the industry thought leaders and a key analyst at Gartner. Neil will be setting the scene for the day and handing over to George Mathew, COO of our sponsor Alteryx – one of the hottest Data technologies on the market in 2015. George will be sharing his vision for Alteryx, and explaining why so many companies are turning to an agile data integration solution rather than their industrial IT solutions to answer their analytics questions. In the afternoon, we have Donald Farmer from Qlik presenting why we are all so natural at data analytics – but why we need technology that better serves us. Following this, we have Andy Cotgreave from Tableau explaining why despite many people being worried about some of the latest advances in Artificial Intelligence technology, there is no need to panic and human based Data Driven Decision making will continue to be the imperative for a long while to come. Of course, Artificial Intelligence is the goal of all of us in the analytics industry – and to entertain us at the end of the day will be Brent Spiner, the actor who despite his roles in the film Independence Day and the hit TV show, The Big Bang Theory, is still most famous for playing ‘Data’ in Star Trek: The Next Generation and subsequent feature films.

5. In your opinion what are the most important challenges and opportunities presented by Big Data and the Internet of Things?

I personally resist using the term ‘Big Data’ wherever I can, as I find that it really has no meaning as it neither describes how it is useful nor indicates the thresholds for when it becomes a problem! I choose to use the term ‘analytics’ which, I believe can be used interchangeably with Big Data and describes much more simply what it is that ‘Big Data’ is useful for! It’s the convergence with the Internet of Things that makes analytics really exciting though. Currently, IoT devices are busy collecting data which feed into our ‘Big Data’ systems. It’s when the operational feedback loop though that the solutions really get exciting – imagine moisture sensors passing data back to your Home Automation System which together with weather predictions analyses and determines the optimum amount to water your garden via the irrigation system? Now imagine this on an industrial scale! No longer will we need to genetically modify crops in order to optimise their growth, we can optimise using analytics – and we can all eat organic! Everywhere we look there are opportunities for analytics + IoT convergence (with a bit of AI too)! This is why this is such an exciting industry to be part of.

6. With the amount of data increasing everyday and doubling how do you the future of hyper data and the necessary simplification?

We’ve got so good at collecting volumes of data in real time, we’ve lost sight of the fact that our IT systems of today we’re only really designed to deal with aggregated information at moments in time to report the ‘what’ that’s happened. The human mind is in fact very good at taking all the sensory inputs we have and only reacting to a fraction (and storing even less). This is why the current research in Artificial Intelligence is so necessary. Unless we can start to build machines which ‘think’ (by which I mean in this context, process information) like we do – then we’re going to keep getting bogged down by the volume and variety of data. It’s questions like this, that my team and I love to help our clients solve!

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