Increasingly essential BI draws on analytical skills
"You've got to be excited about the business intelligence that might be embedded in data and the value you can bring your business because of it!"
– Diana Resendez, Motorola Solutions
"I've been fortunate to be part of organizations that invest in data as a competitive differentiator." – Dr Anita Allemand, CVS Caremark
By Claire Swedberg
Specialists in business intelligence (BI) come from a wide variety of backgrounds: IT, engineering and more. They all have analytical minds, a passion for numbers and an interest in creating the important link between technology and business.
A variety of companies and industries recognize the extreme value of BI. In this article we talk to pros in senior positions in the communication, IT, insurance, pharma, hospitality, food and beverage and paper industries whose work is focused on various aspects of business intelligence. Clearly, interest in BI spans many industries.
Dr Anita Allemand is VP of analytics and outcomes for CVS Caremark
As VP of analytics and outcomes for retail pharmacy and pharmacy benefits management company CVS Caremark (Woonsocket, RI), Anita Allemand, PhD is using BI in the healthcare market. Throughout her career at Caremark her responsibilities have focused on analytics, reporting and forecasting as well as providing outcomes-related support and tools to healthcare decision-makers.
Allemand's team of nearly a hundred advises on the impact of various initiatives on pharmacy costs and total healthcare outcomes. The group works to pinpoint opportunities and make recommendations. "We partner with other internal departments to develop products with strong client and corporate value," she says.
Her team also oversees content development of the company's annual client report, a decision-support tool for future pharmacy opportunities, and the annual trend report in healthcare.
Team members have clinical, IT, business, consulting and research backgrounds. "Some of us also work on external publications and speak at national conferences," Allemand notes.
Allemand earned her 1995 BS in biology and chemistry at the University of Illinois. She started out as a medical intern in an emergency room, but moved on to pharmaceutical research because of her interest in "the quantitative aspects of medicine."
She completed her PharmD in 2000 at Midwestern University's Chicago College of Pharmacy, and a post-doc in managed care in 2001.
After her BS she went to work as a researcher for Abbott Labs (Abbott Park, IL), where she did testing to support Food and Drug Administration (FDA) submissions related to drug development and hospital products. Then she worked as a pharmacist at Sherman Hospital (Elgin, IL), and a managed-care pharmacy resident at Walgreen Health Initiatives. That was a year-long post-doc experience in managed care focusing on quantitative measurement of clinical programs. It was her first exposure to data mining and analytics, and she found that "Data is an incredibly powerful tool in identifying program development opportunities and proving the value of clinical outcomes."
Following that was work as a trend consultant for Caremark Rx where she worked directly with employer and health-plan clients.
In 2001 she joined CVS, which merged with Caremark to become CVS Caremark in 2007. She was a manager, then director, and now VP of analytics and outcomes.
"My varied work experiences prepared me to understand individual patient or consumer behavior and also how to manage aggregate populations and conditions," she says. "The critically important part is access to data that leads to true business intelligence. I've been fortunate to be part of organizations that invest in data as a competitive differentiator."
Regardless of your specific academic background, "If you're interested in pursuing a career related to data mining you should have strong quantitative skills and the aptitude to think logically and analytically," she cautions.
Allemand always knew she wanted to work in healthcare. "I've always been willing to take risks and take the road less traveled," she says. "I constantly tried something new." Her exposure to so many facets of the pharmaceutical industry has given her a deep understanding of the market and the customer, and "Ultimately that helps me be flexible in any role I take on."
Diana Resendez: senior IT account relationship manager at Motorola
At the beginning of this year Diana Resendez became senior IT account relationship manager in the BI competency center of Motorola Solutions (Schaumburg, IL), the enterprise and government arm of the communication technology giant. It's her job to apply her business skills and technical know-how to initiatives like standardizing the ERP landscape, and then make sure the project is aligned with business needs. "It's a lot of governance," she says, "making sure there's no duplication of platforms."
Resendez earned a BS in information systems with a minor in finance at DePaul University (Chicago, IL) in the 1990s. In 2003 she completed an MS in IT at Northwestern University's school of engineering (Evanston, IL).
Her first job was at Amoco (now BP) in Chicago, as a programmer providing data warehousing support for corporate purchasing. She captured information from the company's global procurement applications and generated intelligence data to evaluate processes, supplier and purchasing activity.
The concept of business analytics was fairly new at the time. "It was startup work. I was challenged with helping to understand how to interrogate and extract data from a monolithic system." She moved on to systems analyst, examining where the data was coming from and what data models were needed to capture and access it.
In 1997 she moved on to Motorola as a staff software engineer. Again her work revolved around data. "This had to do with implementing a scheduling tool for manufacturing locations," she says. The job involved lots of travel: she often visited manufacturing sites to learn their needs, then returned to her IT team to deploy the appropriate schedule and planning tool.
After a few years she joined a dedicated data warehouse team supporting Motorola's networks business. Her tools there included Informatica's PowerAnalyzer and the precursors to other modern analytic and reporting tools. The skills she developed were important in advancing her career, she notes.
In 2002 she landed a lead data warehouse role supporting Motorola's global procurement system. At the same time she was getting into her MS program, and found that she could apply her work experience to her coursework. "I enjoyed the business intelligence courses at school," she says. "I knew I wanted to go to the next level, to develop sophisticated business intelligence capabilities and show my value to the company. It's important to both speak technically and understand business."
The plan was perfect. When she finished her MS degree Motorola promoted her to senior IT account relationship manager.
Resendez predicts that BI will play an even larger role for businesses in the coming years. "The tools are getting so much more intuitive and powerful," she says.
"You've got to be excited about the business intelligence that might be embedded in data and the value you can bring your business because of it!"
Dr Shailesh Sood takes analytics to the hospitality industry
Shailesh Sood, PhD is VP of customer relationship management (CRM) and marketing science at Hilton Worldwide. He has seventeen years of experience in marketing, customer intelligence and consulting.
He completed a BS in textile engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology (Delhi, India) in 1986 and an MBA at Delhi University two years later. His 1996 PhD is from the University of Iowa.
In school, Sood planned a career working with polymers or fibers, developing new technologies and materials. "I was very future-oriented and I knew technology was going to expand in this area," he says. Even so, he went on to business school after he finished his engineering degree.
When he finished his studies in 1988, he joined Britannia, a Nabisco subsidiary, as a management trainee in Delhi. After a year he was sent to Mumbai to work in the marketing department, and began to see the importance of marketing analytics and the need for good data and good data analysis.
That's why, in 1991, Sood moved to the U.S. and the University of Iowa for a PhD in marketing. His concentration was on statistics. "I wanted to learn how analytics can be applied to marketing," he says. When he completed his PhD he went to work in Hong Kong for McKinsey & Co (New York, NY), an international management consulting company. He worked as a consultant for three years, in the Asia-Pacific region, Europe and the U.S.
In 2001 Sood joined a friend in San Jose who had just started a venture called Realization Technologies. He was head of marketing, and within two years the company showed a profit, he recalls with pride. His work there fostered a "spirit of innovation" that has helped him throughout his career, he says.
In 2003 Sood went back to consulting. He joined Accenture (Chicago, IL), advising clients on data-driven marketing strategy. The position involved a lot of travel, and he had two young kids at the time. "It was difficult, especially since I had been involved in a startup before that," he says.
In 2006 Sood moved to Discover Financial Services, then part of Morgan Stanley. He was head of payment protection and insurance products, calling on his experience with analytics to help turn the business around.
Running the business function with P&L; responsibility was good experience, he says. Three years later it led to "the opportunity to come to Hilton Worldwide," where he's now global VP of CRM and marketing science. He helps the company build its store of information on past guests and use the information to enhance service and personalize future marketing.
More than seventy million people have stayed in Hilton properties over the last five years, Sood notes. "It's very important that we exceed guests' expectations for service, so we need to understand our guests very well. Of course we have to be very judicious in how we use the data, to be respectful of what the guest wants."
Sood manages a department of fifteen people, most with IT or engineering backgrounds, plus a number of consultants and contractors. "These days careers are not straightforward," he says. "You have to find the sweet spot with the greatest demand for your individual talents."
For business intelligence, "You need to be number-savvy, not scared of technology, and very business-oriented. My career is a living example of that," he notes.
Cheryl Dennis of Exeter Group: where business meets technology
At IT consulting firm Exeter Group, Inc (Cambridge, MA), Cheryl Dennis is a lead systems implementation consultant, implementing PeopleSoft, an Oracle ERP system, at Vanderbilt University (Nashville, TN). Her work includes coordinating tasks for a team of in-house staff and consultants, and providing the client with decision support.
"As consulting team lead, I monitor the project plan and ensure we stay with the timeline. I analyze functionality, make recommendations for solutions to business processes, facilitate meetings and provide expert consultation for best practices and methods," she says.
Dennis has a 2004 bachelor of business admin from Mercer University (Atlanta, GA) with a computer IS concentration, and a 2008 MBA from Keller Graduate School of Management, DeVry University. "I had an interest in IT but thought it more advantageous to earn a degree in business, leveraging my business experience and also learning about computer IS," she says. And she was right; her technical background, acquired knowledge in business and understanding of how IT affects business productivity have led to quick advancement.
Of course, Dennis already had considerable work experience before graduation. She was an application developer/ analyst at Emory University (Atlanta, GA) from 1999 to 2005 and then senior business analyst at Georgia Institute of Technology. Since 2000 she has also been working as a freelance project manager, developer and consultant.
In 2009 she joined TekSystems, another Atlanta consulting company, as a PeopleSoft enterprise application consultant and IT systems manager. And last year she joined Exeter Group as a senior consultant.
Dennis often mentors young professionals. "Many minority young people lack an interest in technical careers and I think it's due to a lack of exposure," she says. "Strong analytical and critical thinking skills are required for a technical career, and they should be developed in middle and high school years." She does add that missing skills can be made up by reading widely and frequently.
"When I don't know a skill related to my job, I learn all about it and how it might help advance my career," she says. "Much of my technical skill is learned and not a natural talent. But strong communication skills and a positive, proactive attitude have helped to open many doors and provide promotions at every step of the way."
Toni Meadows directs custom research for Coca-Cola
Toni Meadows is director of custom research for Corporate Marketing Strategy and Innovation (MSI) at Coca-Cola Co (Atlanta, GA), working on juice, tea and coffee products. She designs and implements "actionable" research, and leads develpment of business and brand strategies, business plan development and advertising and communication.
She works on every aspect of research, she says, from product and advertising development and testing to brand rationalization analyses and portfolio optimization. "One thing unique to my job is that I act as a liaison between the corporate group and the local markets," she explains.
"On global initiatives I work very closely with my research counterparts around the world to make sure we're leveraging their knowledge and expertise about their markets and consumers."
Meadows has a 1978 BA in English from Chatham College (Pittsburgh, PA) and a 1985 MBA in marketing from Washington University (St. Louis, MO).
After college she worked for five years at a variety of jobs, then returned to school for the MBA. Her first job out of business school was assistant marketing research manager, working on Yoplait Yogurt at General Mills (Minneapolis, MN).
She spent the first six weeks in a marketing research training program that was rigorous, structured and logical, she recalls. "Those skills and my experience with the company were the foundation of everything I've done since in my career."
In 1987 she moved to senior research analyst at Ralston Purina (St. Louis, MO), the pet-food company, transitioning from a very structured environment to a much less structured one. "The implications were made real to me when I did my first product test. If the product bombed I couldn't very well ask the dogs why. It was then I realized I had to be much more creative in the way I approached research."
Meadows worked at Ralston Purina for six years and was promoted twice, to project manager and then manager. On the job she developed the people management skills she took with her to Coca-Cola.
Dr Sherry S. Borener works on safety at the FAA
At FAA's accident investigation and prevention aviation safety analytical services, Sherry S. Borener, PhD has gathered a group of analysts representing engineering, the aviation industry, computer science, physics and other disciplines to develop an integrated, large-scale model of the costs and benefits of changes to the aviation system. "The tool suite is designed to process large volumes of data collected at the sensor level, such as from airport multi-lateration systems or radar, and analyze them to detect patterns of anomalous behavior," she explains.
The data is fed to simulation models, with other information like aircraft performance, runway and airspace capacities and weather, to simulate the impact of specific Next Generation Air Transportation System changes on potential safety events.
The FAA will begin to implement significant changes soon and must make the changes quickly, Borener says, and the safety certification process must be designed to handle the complexity of those changes. Right now the group is working to validate the assumptions of the current safety management systems process.
In 1979 Borener graduated from Thomas Jefferson College at Grand Valley State University (Allendale, MI), an independent college that granted only a bachelor of philosophy degree. In 1984 she completed a masters of public policy from the School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan, and her 1990 PhD is from the college's School of Planning.
Before she finished her first degree Borener worked as an intern training coordinator at the Kent County Community Action Program. After she completed the BS she moved into another public program.
When she started in the PhD program she was working for another research institute, helping develop an airbags rule. That work interested the John A. Volpe National Transportation Systems Center in Cambridge, MA, and she was called in to work for the agency as a contractor from 1985 to 1989. When she completed the doctorate she continued as a federal employee in Washington, DC.
Over those years she worked out ways to conduct analyses of transportation risk and cost benefits for Department of Transportation (DOT) offices. The work was done for the U.S. Coast Guard, the Office of Pipeline Safety and the National Highway Traffic Admin. Her PhD dissertation analyzed accident and incident data for a six-year stretch to see how airbags might save lives, and she did similar analyses for the Federal Railroad Admin.
Borener joined NASA in 2004, working in strategic planning for aeronautics research. In 2007 she moved to the DOT as an FAA employee in the office of aviation safety, and took on her current responsibilities.
True, she didn't actually start her career with a passion for business analytics. But, "You can learn to be passionate about anything you work on," she says. "It's just important to understand how the greater good is affected by what you do."
In the future Borener hopes to use cloud computing concepts to distribute analytical and database processes, designing inquiry tools that let users poll data and analyze the outputs when they choose.
VP Ronny Bindra: at Kraft Foods, competitive advantage through analytics
Ronny Bindra, VP of global analytics at Kraft Foods (Northfield, IL), is another BI specialist with a humanities background. He earned his 1982 BA in history and economics and a later LLB at St. Stephen's College of Delhi University in India.
Watching global trends, he shifted his focus to business. His 1987 MBA is from the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School. "My aptitude for and interest in analytics led me to develop a passion for BI," he says. "I have been leading and driving business analytics in various capacities for twenty-five years now."
After completing his masters Bindra got a job as consultant, then became SVP for analytic insights at Information Resources Inc (now SymphonyIRI Group, Chicago, IL), an enterprise market info company. He managed revenue from business solutions and analytics consulting for the marketing and sales groups of consumer packaged goods clients.
In 2000 he went to a new job as EVP for product, technology and business development at NFO Interactive/InterPublic (Chicago, IL), a consumer research company. He worked on business, product and technology strategies for interactive information services.
Two years later he joined Management Science Associates, Inc (Pittsburg, PA) as SVP for info solutions, managing business relationships for senior clients, directing client strategy, information, software and data services, business analysis and consulting, with a team of about a hundred direct and non-direct reports.
Next he moved back to Information Resources Inc as an SVP where he managed business and consumer insights consulting for the company's largest food and beverage client in the sector, and all analytics for major food, drug and mass merchandising retailers.
In 2009 Bindra joined Kraft Foods as VP of global business analytics. He works with the company's business units and regions to lead marketing and sales analytics across the company's shared services organization. The aim, of course, is "to maximize new and existing analytic capabilities globally," deploying strategic and tactical analytics like market structure, growth drivers, marketing effectiveness, strategic pricing, portfolio management, shopper insights and innovation.
Throughout his career Bindra has been deeply passionate about gaining competitive advantage through analytics. "I'm happy about how things have progressed," he says.
"I try to be creative and balance left-brain and right-brain thinking, and I have always tried to build strong relationships internally and externally based on trust and integrity," he says.
Dinah Moore: collaborative relationships at MetLife
At MetLife (New York, NY), Dinah Moore heads up the data, customer strategy and marketing IT group in information technology for U.S. business. Her team is responsible for supporting customer databases, data warehousing, BI environments and marketing. "Ultimately our work drives operational efficiency and increases capacity for U.S. business operations to be more competitive," she says.
Moore partners closely with other leaders who "drive business results through effective data management" at the U.S. business unit. "I feel very lucky to have such a collaborative relationship with my business partners," she says. "As I regularly notice when I go to data conferences, this type of partnership is relatively unique for an IT professional."
Moore earned her BSCS about thirty years ago. "Through my summer employment and internship opportunities in college I grew to love technology," she says.
The companies Moore worked for used a combination of classroom training, on-the-job training, mentoring and coaching. "Mentors and coaches were key for growing my competencies and confidence as a technology leader," she recalls with pleasure.
First she worked for IBM as a senior associate programmer, then account systems engineer. She developed competencies in project management, relationship management and problem analysis, and "enhanced my skills through the company's training programs."
Then Moore moved to JPMorgan Chase, and continued developing her skills in BI, master data management, customer relationship management platforms and infrastructure. She also strengthened her leadership skills as she interfaced with remote workforces, mergers and technology migrations.
Her next job was at Citigroup where she was VP for retail distribution North America business intelligence, working in BI as well as technology re-platforming.
MetLife brought her in as a VP in the information technology group. "I wanted to build on my strategic thinking competencies in alignment with the company's emphasis on strategic planning," she says.
Now she mentors and encourages the folks in her group to grow and develop themselves. The company "prides itself on providing management with tools and programs to really develop its people," she says.
Historically, Moore believes, there was a "great divide" in the corporate world between business responsibilities and IT responsibilities in business intelligence. "This divide is closing, as more companies are seeing the benefits of closely tying IT to business operations and their successes. If you are looking for a position in business intelligence you should be open to looking on IT job boards as well as within business areas," she advises.
"BI will continue to be used as a differentiator for companies to grow shareholder value while delivering customer value."
DIVERSITY-MINDED COMPANIES LOOKING TO FILL BI SLOTS
Check websites for current openings.
|Company and location
|CherryRoad Technologies Inc
(Morris Plains, NJ)
|PeopleSoft implementations/upgrades and consulting services for industry and government
|Coca-Cola Company (Atlanta, GA)
|CVS Caremark Corporation
(Woonsocket, RI) www.cvscaremark.com
|Retail pharmacy; healthcare management systems
|Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) (Washington, DC) www.faa.gov
||Management of the U.S. civilian airspace and air travel
|Hilton Hotels Worldwide (McLean, VA)
|Hotels and resorts
|International Paper Co (Memphis, TN)
|Paper and forest products
|Kraft Foods (Glenview, IL)
|MetLife (New York, NY)
|Insurance and financial services
|Motorola Solutions (Schaumburg, IL)
|Mission-critical communication products and
services for enterprise and government customers
|Nokia Siemens Networks (Irving, TX)
|U.S. Customs and Border Protection
(Washington, DC) www.cbp.gov
|Homeland security; enforces immigration, trade and travel laws
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