SalesTechStar Interview with Scott Schlesinger, Global Data, Analytics & AI Practice Leader at Ness Digital Engineering
Leveraging data to better understand which specific post-COVID-19 marketing and sales strategy or activity will be most effective in the new normal is crucial to growth and success. “Organizations should analyze their marketing campaigns and use analytics and insights to determine the degree to which specific channels generate better results than others to improve the correlation between marketing campaign effectiveness on their sales pipeline,’’ suggests Scott Schlesinger, Global Data, Analytics & AI Practice Leader at Ness Digital Engineering while discussing the key challenges B2B teams faced as the Covid-19 pandemic changed the roadmap for several industries and especially sales and marketing in 2020. Catch the complete QnA:
Can you tell us a little about yourself Scott? How has your journey at Ness been since joining this year?
I began my Ness journey in San Antonio in early February 2020 while attending Ness’s annual global sales conference. Having my first few days on the job at a sales meeting afforded me the opportunity to meet many of the sales, practice, delivery and leadership prior to plunging into the new reality of our daily working routine in the world of the COVID-19 global pandemic. For that, I was fortunate as it allowed me to connect faces to names early on and create some initial contacts that helped me to get off to a quick start here at Ness.
As leader of the Data and Analytics Practice, I’ve combined the experience I have building, shaping and maturing data and analytics teams with the foundational deep data work and engineering prowess that Ness has come to be known for to deliver true value for our clients. I’m passionate about data and all of the opportunities that it affords society if leveraged properly, consistently and ethically. Witnessing, yet more importantly, being and active participant in the development and use of emerging technology solutions that truly make significant impacts on our lives and future is exciting and rewarding. The work we are doing for our valued clients is largely game changing for them in helping them achieve their business objectives and navigate during these difficult times.
We’d love to hear about Ness and some of the upcoming / recent innovations or capabilities being worked on to help meet business challenges and needs during this ongoing Covid-19 pandemic?
COVID-19 presented huge challenges for nearly all organizations across every industry sector. It has played havoc on everything from global supply chains to breakdowns in our ability to effectively care for the ill. Further, this crisis caused millions the world over to lose their jobs and organizations to re-think nearly every aspect of their business. One area of significant importance to so many global organizations has been cost reduction and cost containment. While many realized savings from short term furloughs and some reductions in workforce, this was often simply a matter of buying time and not a sound long term strategy.
Decentralized data posed significant challenges for one organization which had its data decentralized across more than 25 disconnected systems, exposing significant deficiencies in the organization’s catastrophe readiness capabilities. Using our Define and Envision framework, Ness worked with the client (both IT and the Business) to gain a better understanding of the needs and challenges associated with each group and how information could be made more available in order for them to support them while safeguarding their infrastructure.
Ness helped the client bridge the gap between the technical and business communities in the areas of Data Strategy, Data Governance, Data Management and Analytics and AI/ML, ensuring the business concerns are being addressed by technology and allowing them to become more data driven.
How are you seeing data and analytics platforms evolve today? In what ways do you predict emerging technologies like AI will have an impact in the future state of data and analytics?
A recent Gartner study found human decision making is increasingly inadequate given our expanding digital world. According to Gartner, “Data science and especially ML excel in solving highly complex, data-rich problems.” The advent of Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and Robotic Process Automation all offer game-changing capabilities for many large, global organizations – and the data required for the success of these solutions is vast and ever-changing. These changes have created the need for many organizations to re-evaluate their technical landscape and existing data management capabilities. The changes have driven organizations to evaluate their legacy investments, look towards emerging technology solutions and seek out knowledgeable data management professionals for help re-shaping their strategic data direction.
Ness extends the value of data and technology investments by leveraging, NessifAI, a hybrid AI acceleration solution built on industry standards and an open source framework created to support our client’s respective journey towards AI self-sufficiency. Ness has helped dozens of clients in many of the following functional areas that support their sales and marketing efforts, including loyalty and retention, personalization, upselling and cross selling and customer service and support.
For example, Ness has helped a global Fintech company enable their sales and client facing assets by leveraging ML and our AI accelerator to analyze the optimal portfolio holdings for clients and make recommendations across portfolio holdings to yield the maximum return for clients. This data is now made readily available via multiple channels.
Ness has worked with many of our clients to help look for ways to help reduce some legacy technology baggage and exploit emerging technology, including cloud-based and cloud native solutions, to move toward a consumption-based model to control future spend. We have helped many of our clients modernize their data platforms to realize the cost benefits of a modern data architecture and allow them to leverage their unified, cleansed and governed data to drive true business value. Ness helps clients by looking at the modernization process as ongoing by designing, building and supporting modern data architecture that is scalable and sustainable. From strategy to execution to ongoing maintenance, Ness helps our clients on the Data Modernization Journey and has delivered enterprise-scale digital transformation critical to the reduction of cost & complexity of the IT environment.
What are some of the biggest challenges to optimizing use of data that you observe within teams today?
Data Integrity challenges are among the largest challenges in the way of truly optimizing all available data and leveraging it for positive business outcomes. Some call it “dirty data,” and others like to say they have an “MDM issue.” Regardless of the way in which one refers to it, it is all the same challenge and not an uncommon one across the globe and across industry verticals. I have long said that without the right data foundation, true analytic value from this critical asset is near impossible. A comprehensive set of enterprise capabilities, processes, and assets are required to ensure the foundation for legitimate, durable Analytics & AI enablement. This focus will allow for the proper enterprise-wide scale-out that is needed to achieve new heights of operational efficiency and organization profitability. The current pandemic has raised numerous questions of data integrity, credibility and concerns about privacy and security that are now at the forefront of public discourse in a way they were not just 6 months ago. The entire data ecosystem must learn quickly and work arduously to regain public trust and help manage future global crises should one occur. If organizations are going to make the shift successfully to enterprise-wide, long-term, strategic projects, they need to consider solutions, tools and strategic partners that enable the broader data management vision. Ness data professionals work to ensure that duplicate records, invalid information, and poor data authorship processes will not impact the business, with a focus on a firm data foundation with data one can trust and governance to mitigate related risk by establishing a governance framework to address items such as access and control standards.
What are some of the skills that today’s evolving marketing / sales role needs more of in order to breakdown and understand the data they have access to?
Advances in data identification, collection, integration, and analysis have accelerated over the last few years and impacted nearly every aspect of our lives. New sources and types of data are being acquired and analyzed, data once trapped in email, personal files, and unstructured formats are being integrated with traditional/legacy (often structured) data for a more holistic view of the business or specific situation, and data driven leaders across nearly every sector and geographic region are leveraging new tools and processes – including Artificial Intelligence – that improve overall performance. One of the areas where nearly all data driven organizations strive to achieve is around “self-service analytics” which enables the business users to leverage organizational data without heavy reliance on IT.
What according to you makes for a balanced salestech-martech stack to match the needs and challenges of sales and marketing during a global pandemic?
Augmented Intelligence, for example, is exploding in popularity/acceptance and new solutions and platform releases from start-up and legacy data platform providers are gaining significant traction across the globe. Augmented data analytics is the use of ML and natural language processing (NLP) to enhance BI, data analytics and data sharing. This extends the value of an organization’s data foundation and provides near-real time business information. Business Intelligence and Analytics can turn poor business decisions, made using haphazard guesswork, into well thought out and successful business decisions that improve performance. Ness has supported many organizations in the utilization of BI and Analytics tools and techniques and this has proven to have a significant impact on their overall business performance.
A few parting tips to help marketing and sales drive better outcomes despite the pandemic!
In the face of the current global pandemic, businesses have had to operate despite the many challenges, but many continue to thrive. While there have certainly been disruptions for all ranging from supply chain challenges to the logistics involved in the sudden furlough and subsequent return to work for value associates, life and business must go on and go on it has. Organizations of all sizes across nearly all industry sectors are starting to “turn the lights back on” and those valued suppliers and partners that many have come to rely upon better be ready to light the fire – and quickly. Data and Analytics can certainly help. From a sales perspective, it is more common to see large enterprise sales teams leveraging analytics than individuals in smaller organizations, allowing them to seek out data to uncover new insights about their clients and opportunities they may have otherwise missed. Data can truly help a sales team better understand their valued client, their buying patterns, preferred suppliers and partners, recent technology acquisitions and more. Mining for this data can prove to be a treasure trove for the data minded sales professional that seeks them out.
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Ness is a digital solutions company with product engineering in our DNA backed by a global collective of software engineers, data experts, user experience designers and innovators. Combining core competence in engineering with the latest in digital technology, we build customer-facing platforms and software products that help businesses thrive in the digital economy. As your tech partner, we help engineer your company’s future with cloud and data.
Scott Schlesinger has held several senior leadership positions with major Systems Integration (SI) and consulting organizations. Scott has demonstrated success helping client organizations make better, faster and more informed decisions leveraging business intelligence, analytics, AI and data management technologies. He is a recognized thought leader, speaker, and author.