The role of Chief Analytics Officer is key to unlocking Big Data Value and Insights


As the leading global online platform for charitable giving with over 8,000 charity clients and 17 million users, JustGiving is capitalising on big data analytics to help understand charitable behaviour and exploit the tremendous potential that lies within the datasets it has collected over the last twelve years.

Speaking before an audience of 500 senior business and technology leaders at Whitehall Media’s Big Data Analytics held on 19 June 2014 at the Hotel Russell, JustGiving’s Chief Analytical Officer Mike Bugembe explained how he and his team are continually working to better understand people and their behavioural choices.

While much focus is devoted to volume, variety and velocity of big data, Bugembe observes that there are more obvious and significant characteristics attached to what we term ‘big data’.

These characteristics include the fact that:

“Nearly all interactions pass through a computer or a smart phone. That’s exciting. That’s behavioural data about what we do, who we communicate with, what we like.” Data sets which include a timestamp and geolocation are increasingly becoming key to deciphering how consumers and end-users behave and what, if any, factors influence their choices and behaviours.

And we’re likely to see further tectonic shifts. Bugembe says that the proliferation of “sensors everywhere are producing data that we wouldn’t really consider important in the past but [that] actually add a huge amount of value when you start mashing it up and joining it with the data we’ve got in the traditional databases.”

Taken together, sensor and human-generated data create a “laboratory of human behaviour” which can allow for quantitative and predictive capabilities that can greatly enhance business growth.

How do you extract value from big data?

This is the all-important question: how do you put it all together and make sense of it?

While industry would encourage finding a data scientist to unpack the value of more data, Bugembe says they are a rare species in the IT landscape. “To find somebody that can write enterprise level code, and also be a statistician, a mathematician at the same time – these people are pretty special.”

Special – because of the skillsets involved.

“It’s not as straightforward as it sounds,” says Bugembe.

“Data scientists have to be intellectually curious.”

And not just that. They have to bring together creativity and problem solving skills alongside data modelling, statistical and machine learning skills.

The role of Chief Analytics Officer

In the face of a skills gap, many business leaders can instinctively turn to the CIO to deliver value and insight from their data, but the successful organisations are responsible for the emergence of a new role – the Chief Analytics Officer.

The CAO is a key variable for organisations that want to treat their information as an asset, says Bugembe.

And that’s exactly what JustGiving is doing – capitalising on its information assets.

With a multidisciplinary team that combines curiosity with passion and problem solving, JustGiving is utilising big data to help people become more generous.

Capitalising on the information they collate, Bugembe and his team look at what people say and what they do – to better understand the factors that influence their choices when donating.

The role of an Analytics Officer does not simply involve providing data to assist decision-making, says Bugembe. Rather, the role involves uncovering lucrative business opportunities and new products as well as inside information on how to retain customers and suppliers and increase their lifetime value.

The role, which is a new addition to the C-suite table in some organisations, is not without its challenges however. These include unstructured data, getting the right skills in-house to extract value from data and increasing the maturity of an organisation.

The question of “how analytically mature is the organisation?” is a key determinant in defining a data strategy, determining what to buy, how to build a team and – most importantly – establishing new mind-sets within the organisation.

Bugembe’s blog which discusses some of the ways a CAO can profoundly alter the business landscape can be found here.

Join us at Whitehall Media’s 6th biannual Big Data Analytics conference on 13 November 2014 at the Hotel Russell in central London. To register your place to attend, visit www.whitehallmedia.co.uk/bda/register

Here is Mike Bugembe’s interview with us at Big Data Analytics June 2014: