Technology | September 26, 2017
Data analysis shaping business – interview with Samsung’s Andrzej Czechowski
Samsung’s co-operation with JCommerce in the scope of business analytics has borne fruit in several projects and continues to evolve with the emergence of new challenges, of which there are plenty in today’s business environment. We spoke to Mr. Andrzej Czechowski, who in his role as Chief Information Officer & Business Intelligence Head at Samsung Electronics Polska is responsible for this business area related to data processing, about the current trends in business analytics, practical tools and the future of Business Intelligence.
What are the main goals which you set in terms of business analytics?
Andrzej Czechowski: At this point, all of the companies we work with, regardless of the industry, are gradually becoming analytical and IT companies. As Jeff Immelt, the CEO of General Electric, once said, we are waking up to a new reality and can no longer run a business without business analytics. So we spend more and more time analyzing data and trends, because it makes it much easier to make decisions. And because of that, these decisions become more accurate, and we can avoid a lot of mistakes, thanks to an analysis of the past, and the knowledge of various phenomena that can be observed this way. If you want to run a business, you have to know the numbers. Samsung’s strategy here might not be unique, but we most certainly would like to be a mature company and aware of these numbers, the ways in which we want to develop, competition, and internal and external conditions.
Companies are increasingly becoming aware of the potential which data has, but most still associate it with Excel spreadsheets. How do modern business analytics work for such a traditional approach to data?
Andrzej Czechowski: Here are some trends that I myself also try to reinforce and implement. First, we can see that visualization is becoming the language of analytics. Good visualization, meaning that it is consistent and facilitates the so-called drill down, that is, delving deep into an analytical area, is a very useful tool for contemporary analytics. On the other hand, there is also self-service BI that allows you to discern a lot from the data yourself, without the need to send endless inquiries to IT teams, and without the need to have a professional-level knowledge of databases. At the moment, analysts are on hand for almost anyone, which is as it should be. And the next thing which we can observe is the change in technology itself. This means that data can already be read in real-time, servers are ever stronger, and cloud solutions are available, so technologically advanced analytical solutions are much more widely available than ever before. All that shows that business analysis itself has changed greatly.
In terms of visualization, you use Qlik products – I have QlikView and Qlik Sense in mind here. What do you think is the greatest value of these tools?
Andrzej Czechowski: We use many tools, including self-service data integration. We integrate data earlier so that it is easily accessible in the visualization layer. Everything is managed in such a way that the data is always available and well-visualized. With visualization tools, the data can be read well and I have to admit that there is a lot of pleasure to be derived from using all these possibilities. This makes it very fast and easy to independently set a variety of different dimensions. They can of course also be set by default, e.g. through bookmarks, meaning the constant reports which we use, but the greatest value lies in the fact that you can select a given area and view it from various perspectives and explore it deeply, to understand this data better.
How do employees utilize these tools? Are the primary end users of these visualizations top management, or can every employee use these tools at their operational level?
Andrzej Czechowski: Here, the aspect of customized analysis is very important at every level of access. Data should be available, but not everything for everyone. A Product Manager has different needs than an Account Manager, and the needs of a division head or president are different still. The level of knowledge, the level of information that a person would like to have, varies in scope and in detail. As a result, we also have a variety of tools to meet these needs.
Is there a need for employees to ‘drill down’? Are these tools sufficient? Do they make suggestions for how to change things?
Andrzej Czechowski: Habits are an important aspect of it. And of course you have to change these habits if it can bring benefits for your organization. On the other hand, from experience, I know that you should not change visualization tools too often. The user is used to them, knows them well, and it is precisely the use of proven, well-known tools that produces results and improves efficiency. Of course, new visualizations are still emerging, and there are plenty of additional features we add, such as campaign analysis and marketing promotions, which also require good visualization, making it much easier to understand and plan. Yet there are some elements that we created some time ago, let’s say a year or two ago, which work all the time, look good and should not be changed. As I said, business is growing, new areas are emerging, and it’s there where we add new functionalities.
Which areas of business do you most benefit from using these tools in? Of course, we know that they should be used everywhere, but which areas are fastest to see discernible results?
Andrzej Czechowski: As you mentioned, all areas of the company can benefit by analyzing data and gaining information, but the biggest beneficiary is usually the sales department, as there they need to analyze their activities on a daily, mainly quantitative basis. The Product Manager will also see results quickly, for example, if they analyze the price from the point of view of how market trends have changed and add an analysis of market and marketing trends to their data, such as market research agency data. Another such area is Supply Chain Management, where you have to deliver the product optimally, so you also need the relevant reports. On the other hand, the managers of teams and divisions are an important group of beneficiaries, because they must constantly analyze and review key KPIs from their own point of view.
And the areas that still have some developing to do in this respect? Those that still don’t take advantage of these opportunities 100%?
Andrzej Czechowski: In general, analytics are still developing in all areas. On the other hand, the one in which it is particularly visible, in our company too, is the digital sphere and above all e-commerce. I see the potential for a truly huge revolution in this area, from an analytical standpoint as well. Because we have more and more data here. These areas are still learning how to operate. Opportunities and needs in these terms will certainly grow. Soft information is becoming increasingly important, meaning what the customer thinks, likes, dislikes, an analysis of what is happening on discussion forums or vlogs. It certainly opens up vast possibilities for text analysis and analytics in general.
What do you think are the most important technological trends in Business Intelligence?
Andrzej Czechowski: Mobility is definitely at the forefront. Let’s admit that most of Samsung’s tools, such as phones, are already small computers. The mobility of analytical solutions goes hand-in-hand with the development of the devices we use, which have ever-increasing amounts of computing power, virtually unlimited resources. The devices that we carry with us become the centers of management and it is certainly clear that there are almost no analytical solutions that would not be suitable for mobile devices. Analytics are becoming more and more popular. At the moment you can have a really good, really cheap application that can handle most analytical challenges.
On the other hand, more advanced tools are also emerging. Self-learning systems are becoming popular and offer even greater opportunities, such as reliable sales forecasts and anticipation of sales trends. Cognitive systems are generally a highly fashionable and media-driven topic, sparking the imagination, because we can already see that cars are slowly starting to drive themselves. Which raises the question: where is it heading? Will it be like “2001: A Space Odyssey” where ‘Hal’ takes over the business? One thing is certain, cognitive systems are developing, and decision-making is increasingly automated because it is certainly more reliable than any analyst. And of course, technology will take over more areas of our lives and business, so more and more data on these activities will be analyzed. We can see it today, for example in cloud services, and IoT. It’s already happening.
Could you tell us more about the Samsung Business Consulting service?
Andrzej Czechowski: At Samsung we have seen everything mentioned here, the strength of analytical solutions, and how they change the organization. And since Samsung cooperates very closely with B2B partners, the concept of supporting our partners from the analytical side arose, so as to share the experience we have gained with them. This is a “practitioners for practitioners” format. We have gained experience, we see the pros, cons, and we know which solutions work and how quickly they can be implemented in the organization. For us it is also a very big advantage because firstly, we are building a long-term business relationship with a partner, and secondly it is also a much simpler platform of communication. It’s highly convenient to work on the same set of numbers. We go to our partner and talk about e.g. sales data, trends in the market, and we see the same numbers because we work on the same data systems and our knowledge is convergent. Only 18% of larger companies in the Polish market have a mature BI system. So we see that the demand for such systems, as well as the knowledge of how to use them, is great – among our partners too. This is why the Samsung Business Consulting concept, which will support them not only through tools but also through analytical solutions services, was created.
You cooperate with JCommerce in the areas of Custom Development and BI. Could you tell us more about these joint projects?
Andrzej Czechowski: We have been cooperating with JCommerce for several years now – I think that this cooperation is really effective and I hope we can continue to cooperate. We always set ourselves specific requirements and goals which are achieved, and long may it continue.
OK, that’s all the questions I have. Thank you very much, it was great to hear your insights.
Andrzej Czechowski: Thank you very much.