Analytics: The Magnificent Seven – Darren Moffat (week 1)

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A critical element in every Analytics Leader’s success is their Mindset. Our Magnificent Seven series looks beyond the hype at the beliefs and behaviours that engender excellence.

Each episode of Analytics: The Magnificent Seven, will see Darren Moffat interview some of the industry’s top leaders to gain insight into their unique journeys and find out how they got to where they are in Analytics today.

This week, Darren Moffat talks to Paul Laughlin – Founder and Managing Director – Laughlin Consultancy

DM – How did you get started in Analytics?

PL –  After over a decade doing a wide range of roles across IT, I moved into an Underwriting & Actuarial team. My first involvement was with building AI models back in the 1990s (as I had a background in R&D). From this I expanded the data & analytics we delivered and gradually built a statistics & customer insight capability to improve all aspects of our business.

DM – What do you enjoy most about your current role?

PL – Working with a wide diversity of leaders to help them and their teams make a bigger difference in their businesses. It’s wonderfully varied work, including coaching leaders, training teams, lecturing students, plus a little time for speaking & writing.

Since leaving corporate life after 25 years, the last 5 years of running my own business have been very refreshing. The need for Analytics & Data Science is only growing, but too few people are helping develop the leaders needed now & tomorrow.

DM – What has been your biggest success to date?

PL – Whilst working in many parts of Lloyds Banking Group opportunity to design & deliver a successful Data Warehouse project, build an Analytics team from scratch to a thriving department of 44 people, plus add over £11m of profit to the bottom line each year.

But these days I am most proud of the progress my clients made. I have seen Analytics leaders turn around the performance of their teams & make bold career decisions. It’s a great privilege to ‘go on the journey with them’ as they grow in their leadership ability and this is recognised by others.

Plus, these days starting a small business that is still thriving after 5nyears isn’t bad! J

DM – What has been your biggest challenge to date?

PL – During my corporate leadership life, I would say Stakeholder Management. Today’s organisations are complex networks of power & personalities, navigating that as leaders & strategies change takes skill. I would also call out the time needed to educate others and avoid under investment before the organisation suffers as a result.

These days it is often helping my clients make the case for investing in training or coaching (even in organisations that spend/waste millions on IT).

DM – How have you seen the industry change since you started?

PL – A growing focus on technology & coding. Whether organisations call it Data Science or not, there is a rush to learning languages like R or Python & implementing various platforms or cloud services. Some of this is good & has grown the capability & flexibility of many analysts. However, in the rush to focus on programming & data essential softer skills & leadership development can be overlooked. All too often this results in teams full of clever people & new shiny tech, but too little engagement with the wider business & lacking a visible return on the investment.

DM – What do you see for the future for analytics?

PL – Recently I have seen an explosion of interest in Data Visualisation. My training courses on this are always oversubscribed. What I find fascinating is the breadth of roles attending (most are not analysts or data geeks). That represents the growing ‘democratisation of analytics’. Once again this is a mixed blessing, the interest is good but could dilute best practice in Statistics & Data Science.

Hopefully we will see a balancing breakthrough in how well Data & Analytics teams educate their wider business. Positive stakeholder engagement, commercial focus & strong communication skills will all help them ensure the potential is realised.

I fear if we stay just focussed on technology, we could experience another “AI Winter” after the hype passes.

DM – What advice would you give anyone pursuing a career in Analytics?

PL – You’ve made a great career choice but discover how diverse the skills are that you need to succeed. Have a taste of all of them (statistics, coding, data engineering, marketing analytics, AI, data visualisation, agile working, stakeholder management, data visualisation, leadership). Then make a conscious choice where to focus. Do you want to more of a GP (broad view analyst) or a Surgeon (more focussed Data Scientist, Data Engineer roles)?

Plus, protect time for personal development. This field is still evolving fast, those who stay informed stay more relevant.