Home Business IT Business Intelligence Everything is about the data! – Frank Windoloski (interview)

It is all about the data and what you do want to do with it says Frank Windoloski, vice-president, Insights and Data at Capgemini Australia.

Windoloski has been around data for all his working life. It all started in the late 80s with a double Bachelor of Science degree in Physics and Mathematics at the University of Massachusetts followed by a Master of Science in Physics at Boston University. “I’ve always chosen to do what is hard,” he said and added that he was a data scientist well before the term became popular.

Capgemini Frank WindoloskiOne of his first jobs was with Oracle in Silicon Valley where he worked with US retailing giant Walmart on what was at the time a complex engineering project – implementing a Terabyte data warehouse. “We could get the storage right with masses of RAID drives but moving that much data, loading and swapping from memory, and processing it, took time, a lot of time. Today you can store 1TB on a flash drive and process it in memory, now we talk about Petabytes and Exabytes,” he said.

Windoloski joined Capgemini Australia (CG) in March 2015 after many years in the industry with organisations including PwC, IBM, CyberTrust, Verizon, and Singtel. PwC brought him to Australia in 1998, and he progressed up through his career to Partner. “When I joined CG, the analytics practice was just a small piece, less than 5% of the business, and today it has grown dramatically to become a centrepiece in what we do. If you fast forward to 2020 I expect it to be triple the size with an exponential growth curve” he said.

You said you liked doing things that are hard. Why?

My bachelor’s and master’s degrees were in some of the hardest areas – mathematics, and physics, so I guess I have an aptitude for complex things. But I did not want to be a scientist or physicist – I saw so many uses for new technologies and wanted to be a part, and hopefully a leader, in that industry.

It started my career in analytics at Oracle and was in the heart of Silicon Valley during its initial explosion. Data was used for what was called slicing and dicing in those days – mainly looking at historical data to see how a business performed and to consider that data when planning for the future. Today we use data to predict the future much more systematically, and tomorrow we will likely trust the data more than our own gut instinct. This is where I began to see big data emerging as a powerful “future” theme in my life.

I jumped over to PwC, and back to the east coast of America, which saw me providing consulting services and leadership for critical transformational programs at some of the world’s largest companies. My work always seemed to come back to data and how it could be leveraged to drive more business value or better customer experiences.

My journey at PwC brought me to Australia, and then of course eventually to IBM after their acquisition of PwC Consulting.

I had quite an entrepreneurial spirit, and after a decade in the industry I decided to seek out a different sort of ‘hard’ — I went on to work for groups that were backed by venture capital — and even eventually started my own company. I had strong experience growing large companies, but going from small to medium, or zero to small was a new challenge for me.

When the data industry finally exploded, I felt like I was missing out on bigger things which is when I joined CG and it has been a truly exciting journey since then. At CG, I lead a team of world-class data technology experts with deep business and industry sector expertise to drive organisations to gain better insights from both corporate and external data.

Why will big data grow exponentially?

Everything is data driven, it really is all about the data. At first, it was about collecting “your” data from your clients and applying rudimentary analytics, “slice and dice,” to it to help drive sales – sell a printer and the sell them ink and paper. Then the cloud, search engines, and social media came along and it became about how to mix your data with others to give more actionable insights and serve very highly targeted advertising.

CG icebergNow the new data source is Internet of Things (IoT) and that allows machines/sensors/beacons/credit card swipes, free Wi-Fi, facial recognition cameras, and more to feed back to the cloud. You would be amazed just how much there is — it is big data on steroids — petabytes, exabytes, zettabytes, and yottabytes. I don’t want to quote sizes but like the iceberg, this is the 90% of data you don’t see.

In a connected world everything we do, and eventually think, will generate data. It always amazes me how willing people are to share their data — I think it is part of the human experience — we don’t go through life alone, and sharing data as we have seen on social media, is now part of the human experience. All this sharing, of course, raises the issues of data security, and data privacy this part of the industry will also only get bigger with the exceptional growth of big data.

What are the upsides and downsides of the cloud?

It may be public (like Microsoft Azure or Amazon Web Services), private cloud (on-premise) or hybrid (a combination of both). Cloud has matured and the issues of governance (what, where, and how is my data stored), security (can someone else access it), and costs have all been addressed to varying degrees but overall there is confidence in the cloud.

So far much of the industry has embraced applications in the cloud, but moving large scale data to the cloud is just beginning. The cloud provides greater scale, lower costs, and can bring both innovation and agility – however with data it also can, where appropriate, allow for data integration. Think about the power of combining weather data with asset management data, or supply chain logistics – or loyalty data with social media data.

Interestingly, in Australia, small to medium business (SMB) has fervently embraced it, particularly on the OPEX (operating expense model) and enterprise has talked a lot about it, but seems more reluctant to give over control of their data to the public cloud.

But the cloud has snuck into the enterprise. Look at HR for example. Job advertisements, candidate screening and shortlisting, and workflow logistics are almost entirely cloud based.

This is the tip of shadow IT where pretty much everything done in the marketing department under the purview of the CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) involves cloud – CRM, Logistics, slicing and dicing data, sharing in other data lakes, analytics, and more. In many cases, the CMO has bigger budgets for data than the CIO (Chief Information Officer) who is often more concerned with platforms and process.

CIOs and CMOs need to realise that it is a symbiotic relationship, not an adversarial one that will best advance the company’s interests. At CG, I like balancing those interests and often act as a bridge between IT systems and line-of-business needs.

I think that it will not be too far off before Enterprise learns what SMB already knows – you don’t need to own the asset to get the benefit from it. The journey to the cloud enables far richer strategies to be developed.

What is happening in the big data/analytics/business intelligence space?

There is a huge explosion in this space – there are thousands of start-ups and companies getting involved. It is like “fintech” was so yesterday and “datatech” is so tomorrow.

Let’s look at the giants like Microsoft, SAS, Oracle, Teradata, SAP, IBM to name a few. They predominately sell clients a suite of their products, kind of a one-size-fits-all approach, and while it will give a good outcome it is not, in my opinion, necessarily the best approach. Then you have the “new world” visionary players pushing the Hadoop Zoo and open source like Cloudera, Hortonworks, and MapR – these have enormous flexibility and power.

My point is that there is so much on offer and it is all about the data and what you want to do with it. What line-of-business areas will it affect, how do you monetise it, how do you do it …?

Innovation is still accelerating and a multi-vendor strategy is still seen by many as the best way to leverage the massive scope of start-ups in the analytics industry. It is about competitive advantage, not cost containment.

What I find is that people come to CG for advice on how to best leverage their data, not to decide on which platform or vendor is best. As we are vendor agnostic we can determine their needs and best match the tools to get the job done. Invariably we recommend a best-of-breed approach instead of a one-size-fits-all.

Where our clients need the most help is understanding the new data landscape. How to build and integrate huge data lakes instead of data warehouses and how to embrace open data and data sharing.

Our ideal client is one with bucket loads of consumer customer data who wants to embark on a 360° view of the customer by sharing it with public lakes. But be aware that this can be a long journey – benefits will come gradually, but programmes often struggle with data quality and sheer volumes of data scale. It can be 18 months or more before the programmes are completed.

The other clients I like are the one that wants to squeeze more value out of their operational data and where insights can see returns in days or weeks. For example, analysing tyre data on mining haulage trucks saved one company huge money. There are always hidden insights in your data. Using small data sets and not building out complex new systems as a starting point — focusing on the data science — can reap fast short term goals.

How does business engage with CG on big data and analytics?

Eventually, all roads in Australia and New Zealand lead to my team and, by inference, me. Being hardware and software agnostic we can recommend solutions that we know will work and then we can help implement them. Analytic services is an $800 million dollar market in Australia and New Zealand with no signs of stopping – and that figure is hugely conservative considering shadow IT initiatives.

It is a balancing act too – getting the CMO and CIO in the same room and starting to align the needs of the organisation. We at CG provide a good bridge. It is in CG’s DNA to be collaborative. You will never hear “it is our way or the highway” but instead that we offer the patience to steer our clients through the complexities, and help them embrace innovation and leverage the new world of “datatech”.

What are the parting messages for iTWire readers?

  1. Data is the future of It is no longer good enough to trust gut feelings and the C-level needs to ensure data-driven everything underpins their company.
  2. Data and analytics are about solving business needs. It is not something palmed off on the IT department that is charged with keeping the lights on.
  3. Data is not industry specific – it is equally useful across all industries. If a competitor is not already using it they soon will be.

 CG data


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Ray Shaw

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Ray Shaw ray@im.com.au  has a passion for IT ever since building his first computer in 1980. He is a qualified journalist, hosted a consumer IT based radio program on ABC radio for 10 years, has developed world leading software for the events industry and is smart enough to no longer own a retail computer store!


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