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James Alty, managing director, Apteco

James Alty, managing director, Apteco

How is your organisation using data and analytics to support the corporate vision and purpose?

 

Apteco develops the technology for brands and service providers to use to gain deep insights into their customer base and marketplace. We aim to reach from the most skilled analyst to the newest data user and provide appropriate mechanisms for handling massive data volumes and providing readily sharable results. We work with skilled practitioners in the industry to understand how data best represents customer behaviour and how this can be understood to drive marketing communications for the corporate goals of the brand.

 

Naturally, we use our own technology to analyse telemetry feeds daily, representing hundreds of users processing billions of records. This analysis drives our software development process to ensure we prioritise the areas most valuable to our clients.

 

2020 was a year like no other - how did it impact on your planned activities and what unplanned ones did you have to introduce?

 

We count ourselves fortunate to operate a software business during the pandemic. Our investments in infrastructure during 2019 meant we could disperse to home working in March 2020 with confidence that it would just work, and it did. We had already developed a home-working culture as we recruited staff from further afield to gain the skills we need.

 

Prior to the pandemic, we had provided almost every member of staff with a headset and webcam, so our feature teams could meet online if any member of the team was working from home. In lockdown, this became the norm, with teams meeting regularly on Slack. We use a "webcam on, in the room" approach, which flows through into our external meetings, where we always try to appear on-screen.

 

The biggest change to our planned activities was to move our annual user conference online. We have developed a successful annual event with keynotes, plenary sessions, focus groups and feedback. With no ability to meet in person we found new suppliers and new methods and developed an online venue that supported a great experience spread over two days for our biggest-ever conference.

 

To ensure engagement and make it a true Apteco event, we despatched delegate packs to be opened on the first morning with popcorn, vegan gummy bears and various conference materials. It turned out to be a huge success and something we will build on this year.

 

Looking forward to 2021, what are your expectations for data and analytics within your organisation?

 

As organisations find new ways of working post-pandemic, we believe they will turn to data-oriented activities from engagement to legacy and from fundraising to loyalty. Data and analytics will be more important than ever in 2021 and we are determined to be in prime position to provide great software and services to our partners and customers.

 

We allow visualisations and insight to be shared widely across our client organisations and their supplier networks free of charge, democratising access to analytics. We expect to see more data, more platforms and more users all operating with world-class user interfaces.

 

Is data for good part of your personal or business agenda for 2021? If so, what form will it take?

 

Yes. We see benefit in the use of analytics for wider topics than our core marketing sector activities. In particular, we are looking at healthcare opportunities as public health communications and management of chronic conditions are national priorities. Using analytics and techniques developed in the marketing sector to help patients and healthcare providers improve quality of life and intervention outcomes is a goal for Apteco. We aim to assist clinical registries and other not-for-profit organisations by making the power of our solutions available in easy to deploy and affordable configurations.

 

What has been your path to power?

 

Graduating from Manchester University in Computation, I began work as an analyst programmer with Logica in Rotterdam. In 1987, after 18 months in that role, I started my own business to combine paid and charitable consultancy work. The first commercial client, Market Location, set the direction of my subsequent career by introducing me to the marketing industry, data and analytics. My colleagues and I delivered the first FastStats system for Market Location in the early Nineties and converted the business from consultancy to product development.

 

The scope of FastStats spread to cover analysis, predictive modelling, visualisation, marketing automation and reporting. Throughout this development, my role grew from hands-on technician to team leader to managing director, with a continuing emphasis on treating clients, partners and staff fairly.

 

Supplying FastStats through a network of partners, we have built Apteco to be a successful international business with thousands of users, hundreds of clients and over 70 partners worldwide. With established subsidiaries in Frankfurt, Sydney and Rotterdam, I have closed the loop back to where I started over 30 years ago.

 

What is the proudest achievement of your career to date?

 

Pride often comes before a fall, but a highlight of my career each year is the Apteco Live user group conference. This year, we presented a virtual event to our biggest-ever audience, with delegates joining from right across the globe. I have the privilege to lead the presentations and get a real buzz from showing the great work we do each year. Presenting from a temporary studio during the lockdown with all off-camera staff socially distanced and wearing masks, we still managed to exceed client expectations and deliver a world-class event. The pandemic required us to change the form of our annual event and we made a real success of it through innovation, hard work and a friendly approach to our partners and clients.

 

Tell us about a career goal or a purpose for your organisation that you are pursuing?

 

We provide meaningful long-term, intellectually stimulating employment and financial stability for the whole Apteco team, while creating software and services that compete on a global stage. Our goal is organic growth, maintaining the highest ethical standards in everything we do, while servicing our partners and clients. Through excellence in software design, development and service, we aim to be recognised as a global leader in analytics and campaign automation with the reach to support users worldwide.

 

How closely aligned to the business are data and analytics both within your own organisation and at an industry level? What helps to bring the two closer together?

 

Our organisation is fully aligned with data and analytics – it is our specialist subject and the focus of all that we design and develop. We spend every working day considering how we can handle data better, make it more accessible and provide more powerful analytics. We work continuously on improving the experience of users analysing billions of rows of data to gain insight and drive action. One of our current goals is to provide access to powerful analytics for non-technical users. We aim to break down barriers of terminology, functionality and usability to make access to insight available to all.

 

We see the challenges client organisations face every day, with data diversity and siloed data sets limiting the power of their analytics. We work with our partner marketing services providers to help create unified data views and the necessary data and channel connections to enable insight into action.

 

What is your view on how to develop a data culture in an organisation, building out data literacy and creating a data-first mindset?

 

We support a data culture by encouraging staff to test our software continuously on their own choice of open datasets. We hold datathons to encourage shared exploration of previously unknown datasets. These sessions provide both usability results on our software and a learning opportunity within a supportive and safe environment. Learning from your peers and sharing findings on data help create a data-first mindset. More recently, we have started a data and analytics channel to allow our team to share posts and learning on datasets they have explored.

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