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Mark Ramsey, Chief data and analytics officer, R&D, GlaxoSmithKline

Path to power

 

Ramsey’s 30-year plus career has focused at the intersection of business and technology. His first 11 years were in the insurance industry, leading the selection and implementation of new technologies for the organisation. He then was one of the pioneers in data and analytics during his 18 year career with IBM. Prior to leaving IBM, he was the VP business analytics and optimisation, responsible for the strategic direction and operational execution across the growth markets, including South East Asia, India and South Asia, China, Korea, Australia, New Zealand, Central and Eastern Europe, Middle East, Africa and Latin America. Ramsey was named an IBM Master Inventor with over 50 patent filings focused on business intelligence and analytics. He joined Samsung Mobile as its first chief data officer, reporting directly to the president, with the mission to develop the company’s first big data platform. In 2015, Ramsey joined GSK as the R&D chief data officer, reporting to the president of R&D with the responsibility to implement the first data strategy.

 

What has been the highlight of your career in the industry to date?

 

The last few years leading the development and implementation of the data strategy for R&D at GSK has been the highlight of my career. It has been incredible to leverage my experience of working across many industries to help the transformational journey for one of the world’s largest and most respected pharmaceutical companies. In less than three years, we have been able to construct a large-scale, production analytics platform, load nearly 100% of the structured and unstructured data from across R&D and drive measurable value to the organisation.

 

If you could give your younger self some advice about how to progress in this industry, what would it be?

 

Get ready for constant change, constant learning and constant challenge. My focus over the past 30-plus years has been on data and analytics at the intersection of business and technology. However, in retrospect, it feels like I have had 30 one-year careers with new learnings each year.

 

Did 2018 turn out the way you expected? If not, in what ways was it different?

 

From a technology perspective, it was in line with what I expected. What was different was the rapid expansion of genetic data as part of the collaboration between GSK and 23andMe. This drove an exponential growth in this area of our analytics and the demands on our R&D information platform.

 

What do you expect 2019 to be like for the industry?

 

I am expecting the hype around emerging technologies to be less, with more focus on the delivery of large-scale, production analytic solutions. Rather than investing time and resource in “proof-of-concept” efforts, companies need to tackle key strategic initiatives.

 

Talent and skills are always a challenge to find - how are you tackling this in your organisation?

 

Talent is extremely important in the delivery of successful programmes. Tackling this area requires a multi-faceted approach. Selecting key strategic initiatives for folks to engage with is very important as top talent wants to make a difference in an industry, not just dabble with technologies. Establishing a process to recruit and engage junior talent that can grow over time is also key. Finally, having solid collaborations with external organisations helps address the shortfall.

 

What aspect of data, analytics or their use are you most optimistic about and why?

 

I am most optimistic that newer technologies, such as AI and machine learning, have reached the level of maturity where they can have a step-change impact on the overall data management process. I think it is a mistake when organisations apply AI/ML only to solving business issues and miss the opportunity to address the data landscape itself.

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