The Analytical Revolution: It's Here

January 2015 A Special Advertising Supplement to Atlanta Business Chronicle  Just how much of…

Georgia (Jan 26, 2015)

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January 2015 A Special Advertising Supplement to Atlanta Business Chronicle 

Just how much of an impact analytics are having on the daily lives of consumers and the businesses that market to them was brought home in the opening session of the 2014 KPMG Perspectives conference. Will Hakes, KPMG’s managing director of Customer Analytics, set the tone for the rest of the day by covering a range of topics around how technology has changed the way the world operates.

“Analytics change everything, and everything we do is impacted by them,” said Hakes, who of fered a high-tech version of a morning routine centered around listening to music, finding a coffee coupon and ordering appliances to operate - all from the swipe of a smart phone. “Just think of ever y community that’s tr ying to insert themselves into your day. Analytics are a key part of that.”

While most companies are now amassing unprecedented amounts of big data, they’re also confronting two key concerns: How to store it and where to get the talent to interpret it. “You’ve got to have storage; it’s the fuel that drives things,” said Hakes. “And as we’re getting more and more data at an accelerated rate, the challenge for organizations is to bring in, train and retain the talent to decipher it. That’s one thing we’re not making enough of; we’re about 100,000 people short. We need data scientists.”

To discuss how these challenges are being met in the corporate and education spheres, Hakes sat down with and Russ Pierce, managing director of Customer Data and Analytics at Delta Air Lines, and Jennifer Priestley, professor of Applied Statistics and Data Science, director of the Center for Statistics and Analytical Services and the 2012 Statistics Professor of the Year at Kennesaw State University.

Pierce joined Delta nine months ago to focus on customer analytics, a new direction for the airline that includes establishing a customer data infrastructure as well as developing advanced analytics and market research. Previously, he directed marketing strategy and analytics for AT&T. His background includes being a consultant with McKinsey and working as a mechanical engineer.

Priestley, who co-chaired the 2012 National Analytics conference in Las Vegas, is a sought-after speaker and author of articles and textbooks in her field. Along with a Ph.D. in Statistics, she has an extensive corporate background, having worked as the vice president of business development for VISA EU in London, MasterCard International, AT&T Universal Card and Andersen Consulting.

Both experts agreed that the state’s higher education system should be considered the “farm system” for the next generation of talent. Kennesaw State, which has been building a reputation around its programs in advanced analytics since 2006, is turning out highly-skilled graduates with an understanding of how to interpret data who are immediately finding jobs.

“We’re seeing the employment equivalent of a run on the bank,” said Priestley. “We have a 100 percent placement rate for our grads, and many are getting multiple offers from health care, manufacturing and consumer arenas.”

KSU students work with data sets of more than a million elements - much like the data companies are wrestling with in their business environments. And everyone is attempting to solve the same problem, said Priestley.

“How do we transform massive amounts of raw data into meaningful information?” she asked. “At the KSU center, we see a

wide variety of clients, from small businesses of 20 people to major companies, that all have the same problem. They’re trying to take massive amounts of unstructured data and turn them into something they can use to improve the bottom line.”

That’s the gist of Pierce’s work at Delta. “We’re trying to use data to understand and improve customer relationships over time,” he said. “We also need to measure the connection between those relationships and revenue. Data can tell us where to invest to improve customer experience and also help us predict value for the organization.”



A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its nearly 43,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit