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This past weekend, I had the honor of reuniting with a long-time colleague and friend, Clare Gillan, and participating in a panel discussion during one of her classes at the F.W. Olin Graduate School of Business at Babson College.

The multiweekend course, “Competing on Analytics,” covers a broad array of topics in a short amount of time such as:

  • The evolving world of data and analytics
  • Enterprise-level and industry-level trends
  • Analytics infrastructure and business intelligence tools
  • Organizing for analytics and data governance
  • Analytics careers and business opportunities


Getting the band back together

Clare and I first met in early 1988. I had just joined Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) and was an internal consultant in a marketing intelligence group. At the time, I was a few years removed from my MBA at the Duke/Fuqua School of Business and a veteran of several years of high-end analytics consulting across consumer products and business-to-business firms. Clare had started as a research analyst at International Data Corporation (IDC) before continuing on to become a senior vice president with the firm. Over the course of many years, we would collaborate quite extensively. In fact, the research and competitive overviews of the market we now call “Business Intelligence”, that formed the foundation for this concept we universally talk about, were very much shaped by this collaboration.

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Fast-forward many years, Clare is now a faculty member at Babson College in Wellesley, MA. I was thrilled to

join her on a panel of experts on a sunny spring  Saturday afternoon on the Babson College campus. I was not only excited by this opportunity to get out and speak to and interacxt with students, it was a great opportunity to network and connect.  Even cooler was to be joined by my long-term friend and colleague Michele Chambers, President and COO of local software firm RapidMiner – who, like me, is also a long-time high-tech veteran. Rounding out the panel was Stan Huang, Vice President of Engineering, Humedica. While also Clare’s husband, Stan represented tremendous experience in the field of healthcare and health sciences and analytics and insights. Pretty cool indeed.


My personal story of game-changing innovation and my love of sports

Because I sat closest to the podium, I kicked off the session with a mix of content I’ve used at previous speaking engagements and at Duke/Fuqua School of Business to discuss trends in technology and marketing.

Clare had asked me to talk about “my journey” and address key issues pertinent to technology and analytics:

  • During my talk, I addressed IDC’s “3rd Platform” and Gartner‘s “Nexus of Forces” – spanning multiple generations of technology and radical and disruptive change. Check out recent blog about the 3rd Platform and how it’s driving key innovations.)
  • I then gave my perspectives about the art and science involved in the role of the modern marketer, which is a very timely them in the industry and in my work at SAP Marketing.
  • From there, I focused specifically on analytics, talking about areas MBA students should become proficient in, including:
    • Systems of engagement such as Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and real-time data access
    • Marketing Automation and applications to a customer experience
    • Dashboards and analytics for reporting, understanding the audience and their unique needs
    • Digital Media and the drivers behind the “data explosion” where data is doubling every two years
    • Big Data, Business Analytics & Reporting
  • Finally I addressed the emerging field of data science, and the arrival of data scientists in the workplace – and the different set of skills required, and the fact that no one person can “know it all” in this emerging growth field
  • Not shying away from my affinity for storytelling, I wrapped up with a couple of SAP case studies:
    • The first was Duke’s use of basketball analytics, which is so fresh in my mind having published a two-part blog series (Read Part 1 and Part 2.)
    • The second was even fresher, having attended multiple hockey games in the past couple of weeks – the NHL’s application of SAP statistics to enhance and extend the fan experience.

You can access my slides from this presentation here on Slideshare.

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An amazing journey full of analytics and insights

Michele came next. Although it was a Saturday afternoon, I couldn’t help but take notes on her presentation and send out some thought on Twitter. Here are a few words of wisdom Michele shared that I thought were particularly poignant:

  • Overall Trends in the marketplace:
    • Major trends in the industry include in-memory, in-database, Hadoop, and open source platforms with an underlying community to support it.
    • Analytics all by itself is no longer a competitive advantage.
    • Data science is actually a bottleneck – a fast-growing area with a scarcity of resources.
    • We are in fact headed to analytics factories – mainstream applications aligned with the concepts of “IT as a factory).
    • There’s an underlying trend and impact of millenials. They have a mindset on “ASAP,” and the answers they needed have to be “smart” and immediate.
    • Advanced analytics market maturity: Some traditional players are in a downward slope and a new generation of solutions are coming to market; they Michele Chambers Babson.jpgare in fact “obtuse” to the market
    • This is a “brave new world” world of modern analytics and with it a new market is unfolding; lots of newer analytics players and entrants
  • While strategy is good, it’s the execution that really matters. There are some new areas to focus upon, including:
    • Crowdsourcing and the “Wisdom of crowds”
    • Michele discussed an opt-in feature and collection of metadata of what you are using; stored in repository for analytics best practices; wisdom of crowd recommendations follow
  • In this “brave new world” we’ll see the union of math, computer science, and database experts:
    • Data scientists include developer and applied fields, bringing a complete new landscape.
    • We simply can’t create data scientists fast enough.
    • The trend will be to move work of analytics into a broader realm hence “table steaks” hence freeing up deep data scientists for deeper, more valuable work.
  • Michelle talked about the link to wellness and social programs. She referenced datakind.org and called it a “Peace Corp of data for social good.” And it struck me that was a great effort for social programs at colleges and universities and how analytics can indeed help make  a difference.


Click here
for Michele’s slides on Slideshare.

A perspective on clinical intelligence for life sciences and healthcare providers

Stan then spoke about his perspective in healthcare and life sciences. He invoked his long history in the industry and spoke about prior roles and more than 25 years of experience in commercial software development, including positions at Lotus Development Corporation. He then spoke about Humedica, an Optum Company. If you are not familiar with Humedica, the company is a clinical intelligence company that powers healthcare providers and life sciences organizations to make better-informed, more confident decisions by transforming unconnected data from multiple sources into real-world insights. Pretty cool and applied solutions, IMHO!

  • Stan discussed the solutions approach and the focus at Humedica and used my favorite “Jerry Maguire” analogy of following the money – “Show me the money!”
  • Stan used some good industry heuristics and talked about how the old “80/20 rule” applies – keeping solutions in well managed stable position and while building a next-generation intelligence health platform.
  • He brought all of this down to earth with a reference of the “dumpster data search” and the need to make solutions practical and accessible by all classes of workers, not just an elite class of information-enabled workers.

.Our presentations were followed an insightful 45-minute Q&A session that covered topics running the gamut from our presentations to the future of data

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science; best practices; specific insights for healthcare, life sciences, and insurance; and so much more.  


In the end, I was inspired to write my final tweet of the afternoon, summarizing the major driver of the future of business. Hint: It’s not just technology. “Analytics is no longer a side show that can be addressed ‘after’ – with Big Data it IS the show!”

Not bad for a Saturday afternoon on a beautiful spring day in the Boston area!


About Fred Isbell

FMI Work SAP.jpg Fred Isbell is Senior Marketing Director for SAP Services & Support Marketing for Thought Leadership, Demand Management and Planning for the worldwide Services & Support Marketing team. A 15-year veteran of SAP, he formerly led SAP Global Services Marketing Field Engagement, the North American SAP Services regional marketing team and SMB Channels Marketing for the SAP Small and Midsize Business team. Prior to SAP, he held a variety of senior solutions, services, and partner marketing roles with Compaq and Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC). Fred is an honors graduate of Yale University with a BA in Economics and Political Science, and has an MBA from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business where he was a Fuqua Scholar.

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