This week, we conduced a Q&A series with Simon Avenell, a Partner at one of River Logic's long-time consulting partners PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). The Q&A focused primarily on the value that prescriptive analytics has brought to PwC over the last several years. For consultants or business leaders interested in learning more about prescriptive, its value and how to get started, this is a must read!
Q&A Interview with Simon Avenell, Partner, PwC Australia
Question: As an economist and a consultant, what led you to building a prescriptive analytics practice at PwC?
“As an economist, it’s very powerful to be able to efficiently represent and solve business problems as genuine optimization problems with an objective function, constraints and choice variables.
As a consultant, being able to bring genuine optimization to businesses has the potential to add significant value. Decisions that were previously judgement calls or based on experience can now be made on the basis of data and are therefore infinitely more valuable to business objectives. Given the complexity of modern decision making, if firms are not employing genuine optimization, there is no chance they are accidently doing the best they can in the circumstances they face. We will be able to add value in just about every situation.”
Question: What is the highest value a customer may capture from deploying prescriptive analytics across their business?
“To bring prescriptive analytics into every day decision making requires more than a technical optimization capability; it requires new skills, the right organizational structures, the right accountabilities and rewards — in short, it’s transformational in the best sort of way. Businesses can learn about and focus on the things that matter. The areas requiring managerial judgement can be teased out and given the right level of attention, and leadership can re-think the possible.”
Question: Who is best positioned to champion such an initiative within a customer organization?
“The C-suite, or at least a high up executive, has to lead the initiative, because the nature of change from such initiatives are transformation and require support and backing. Because the River Logic platform allows a truly end-to-end and cross functional view of a business, those charged with the responsibility for the business as a whole must lead.”
Question: How does PwC help customers adopt Prescriptive and realize value?
“The transformational nature of prescriptive analytics can create barriers to adoption. There is often change resistance in functional areas; there is risk in comprehensive business change and sometimes leaders have reservations, usually born of unmet promises in information system installations. Our approach is to build trust in three stages: 1) build a small proof of concept exercise (usually the firms most intractable discrete problem), 2) build a proof of value project (across a single product line or function), and 3) realize value in an end-to-end business initiative.
Another strategy we employ is to have a joint team with our clients were the client has people learning River Logic alongside our experienced people. This demystifies the platform, builds trust and hastes knowledge transfer and client ownership.”
Question: What additional information would you like to share with business leaders? How could they best learn about Prescriptive?
“The reach and power of the River Logic Platform is extraordinary. It can sound too good to be true. Start small but be prepared to scale fast. There are real competitive advantages to be gained by bringing this capability and line of thinking into business decision making.
I first learnt about Prescriptive Analytics from River Logic — they’re at the forefront of the category. They’re a great team and offer good content around the ways to set apart the kind of things that be achieved with genuine optimization versus what analytics (even other forms of advanced analytics) do in general.”
Question: Which approach would you recommend to get started?
“The answer to this question depends on a business’s most pressing problems. Go right to heart of something that has previously been intractable or extremely frustrating, then seek to frame the problem as an optimization question.”
Question: What are some best practices to ensure success and drive maximum adoption?
“Definitely get your C-suite involved and build momentum by sharing experiences and involving multiple functional teams and various roles within those teams.
For PwC, focusing on real businesses issues has been the best way for us to start with our clients. Talking about optimization in the abstract is not very helpful for business leaders facing real-world challenges. We have teams with close relationships to business leaders that have a good understanding of our clients’ overarching business problems, and that’s where we tend to start. In a way, the most important first market for us are our fellow partners.”
Question: From a consultant’s perspective, what value has River Logic brought to PwC?
“River Logic’s Platforms allow us to answer many of our clients’ most important questions. This builds trust and allows authentic conversations, and it’s in these relationships that the power of our firm can be brought to clients and unlock unmatched value for their business. We help address a wide range of challenges among our clients like getting their information systems right, managing change effectively, thinking about customer experiences in a new way and capturing new market opportunities.”
Question: From a technology standpoint, what would you look for to maximize a client’s ability to capture that transformational value?
“The key is to actually understand that capturing transformational value is much more a people, cultural and organizational challenge than a technology challenge. Having said that, the technology must not only support the solution of the business issue but also the right experience for the people and customers of the business. I believe we are moving to a situation where the right technology stack can be acquired relatively easily, and River Logic’s high level of interoperability is an excellent example the way forward.”
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