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Andy Neely, Pro-vice-chancellor enterprise and business relations, University of Cambridge

Andy Neely

Path to power

I’ve spent most of my life on the boundary between university and business. I trained originally in manufacturing engineering, at Nottingham University. During my PhD I explored how leaders achieve goal congruence – generating alignment across the organisation they lead. This sparked my early interest in key performance indicators.

 

In particular, I was interested in how you identify and design KPIs that best match the organisation’s strategy. I’ve spent time at Cambridge University, Cranfield School of Management and London Business School, always working closely with business partners to try to solve practical problems that organisations face.

 

I combine my current role at Cambridge with being a co-founder of Anmut. As pro-vice-chancellor, I am responsible across the university for innovation, commercialisation, spin outs, start-ups and links with business. At Anmut, we are focusing on data valuation – in particular we are interested in helping organisations understand the value of their data and using the insights gained to challenge the way they work. Data – and the insights it can deliver – is a theme that has run throughout my professional life.

 

What is the proudest achievement of your career to date?

I wouldn’t single out a specific achievement, but instead say that I take pride in any job that is well done. I’m proud of books I have written – The Performance Prism and Measuring Business Excellence. I’m proud of lectures, classes and executive programmes I have delivered. I’m proud of the achievements of my students and colleagues. And I’m proud of consulting projects which have delivered real and lasting change to the organisations I have worked with. The unifying theme is that I am proud when I think the job has been well done and has made a difference.

 

Who is your role model or the person you look to for inspiration?

There are many people who I admire for different reasons. Clayton Christensen, who popularised the idea of the innovator’s dilemma, is someone who I have always found thoughtful and thought provoking. I also like the way Henry Mintzberg talks and thinks about what strategy is.

 

Did 2019 turn out the way you expected? If not, in what ways was it different?

In many ways 2019 turned out as I’d expected, although not necessarily as I’d hoped. It was good that this phase of the UK’s ongoing argument about Brexit was finally been resolved. The outcome was not as I had hoped for, but at least we now have an outcome. From a personal perspective, 2019 was an exciting year – not least because it was a very successful year for Anmut.

 

What do you expect 2020 to be like for the data and analytics industry?

2020 promises to be another important year for the data and analytics industry. We’ll see more innovation around how organisations use data both to generate operational and customer insights, but also to innovate their business models.

 

As 5G becomes more prevalent and the IoT continues to take hold, there’ll be new opportunities to access and analyse data from disparate sources. A challenge will be to manage the ethical and privacy concerns that will arise. No doubt we’ll see examples of organisations getting this wrong and suffering reputational damage as a consequence.

 

Data and technology are changing business, the economy and society – what do you see as the biggest opportunity emerging from this?

Data and technology are opening up significant opportunities for companies to innovate their business models. A key trend is the tendency for organisations to focus on outcomes, ensuring that they are configured to deliver the outcomes their customers want. In essence, companies need to ask how they can align their interests with those of their customers so that they can help customers do a better job. Data can play a crucial role in this, helping to derive insights into assisting customers in achieving their aims.

 

What is the biggest tech challenge organisations face in ensuring data is at the heart of their digital transformation strategy?

Clearly, I am biased, but at Anmut we believe the question of data valuation is key. If you understand the value of your data and you think of data as an asset, you can ask different questions of how your organisation acts and behaves. If you have a good understanding of the value of your data, you can prioritise your investments, ensuring you focus on improving the data assets that are most important. Many people talk about data lakes, but what matters are the underlying data pools – you need to understand the relative value of these data pools so you can prioritise your investment and improvement efforts.

 

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