By Koketso Mamabolo
“Where more needs to be done is in giving the growth and talent of the continent a structure and an organised manner to take this wealth to the rest of the world,” says Insight Consulting’s Head of Consulting, Rene McGregor. Rene has amassed over 20 years of experience in the computer software industry. Three of those years have been at Insight Consulting where she helps businesses to better understand the data they have available to them. We find out from her how businesses can use that data, what Africa can do to stop from falling behind and what the future may have in store for data analysis on the continent.
What are some of the ways organisations can use data to improve their operations?
Effective use of the right data at the right time and for the right purposes is what is most important to achieving goals in an organisation. It is key to not only use the data to gain insights into the business but also to learn from it and then put it into action to improve, innovate and compete. Unstructured data and data from non-traditional sources should not be ignored in adding value or gaining insights. Using data can be in many forms but focus on key aspects like data collection, management, analysis, comprehension, application and governance are most important.
How are organisations using data differently to how they did before the pandemic?
Organisations are more open to using non-traditional company data. Data that is unstructured and from multiple sources. Analysis now includes data from COVID statistics or weather patterns, as well as customer sentiment and buying patterns. Comparisons not only year-on-year, but using knowledge of missing trade for two months during 2020 and how that affects yearly comparisons. Our focus at Insight Consulting is on helping our customers understand their data journey and walking this path with them in building a solid data strategy by using our full data value chain.
The value chain starts at data capture & processing, leads into data integration where analytics and visualisation can take place and then looks to planning, all while leveraging off our industry knowledge and solutions. Our strategy is focused on what the data vision is; how to use technology to assist; which projects to prioritise and most importantly how to instil a culture within the organisation to embrace data literacy.
How do you think we’ll be using data differently in the future?
The use of data will become more and more a natural thought process rather than a huge analysis undertaking to provide reports. We see how people use data in their daily lives to make decisions on where to eat, which shops are closest, the easiest routes to travel. Customer sentiment is a big part of the future of decision making, and how we help people understand and interpret data to make decision making more natural is what will take precedence. Data literacy is therefore such a big part of helping organisations move forward in actioning their data.
Do you think the African continent is keeping up with the rest of the world in terms of technological developments? What more could be done?
There is a huge wealth of natural ability for maths and science in the people of Africa. There are many success stories of the people that strive to want to make a difference and ideas matter. Where more needs to be done is in giving the growth and talent of the continent a structure and an organised manner to take this wealth to the rest of the world. COVID-19 has proven that we have great scientists, doing good work but we lack an organised way of managing how we package this to the rest of the world.
What are three books you’ve read that have taught you something? What were those lessons?
Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren: Helped me to refocus my life, add perspective and balance, and most importantly to use my time well while always looking for ways to encourage others.
Life Without Limits by Nick Vujicic: Inspirational read, teaching me that everyone has struggles and it isn’t always which struggles you have but rather your outlook on them and your courage to persevere through adversity that is what’s important.
The 12 Week Year by Brian P.Moran and Michael Lennington: Set yourself a big vision but work toward that by giving yourself smaller stepping stones to achieve, so you can move towards that goal progressively and with focus.
Please tell us a bit about your background – how did you get to this point?
I studied at CPUT (then called Cape Technikon) in the late 90s, to firstly get my National Diploma in IT and then, while working, studied part-time to get my BTech in IT in 2002. I spent the first 9 years of my career as a Delphi Developer and System Analyst, where I started working on Y2K and then moved into the fruit export industry (Capespan) where my major responsibilities were in the calculation of payments to our farmers for the fruit provided to the rest of the world.
It was here that I gained experience in liaising with clients, understanding data and attention to detail as each week we facilitated the calculation of payment of millions of rands. I started using Qlik around 2006 and loved the tool for its ease of use in analysis. (It was QlikView version 7 that we used at the time). This is what made me approach the owner of the Master Reseller, QlikView SA, in 2008 to ask for an opportunity to join the team. Understanding business requirements, learning quickly, and adding value to a client was important in this consulting role.
The Qlik tools made it easy, but the experience is what has shaped my career. It has given me the opportunity to really understand data, understand how it helps the business and then use the data to help make business decisions quicker or validate trends. In this consulting role, I had the opportunity to grow my business knowledge in many industries like retail, manufacturing, hospitality, venue rental, liquor distribution and beauty. The company was acquired by EOH (Now iOCO), where I took on more senior roles in consulting and explored a passion for leading a small team and assisting people in their career growth.
Other exciting initiatives I had the opportunity to invest in were understanding and starting the focus of a data literacy program. At the end of 2018 I took on the responsibility of Consulting Exec over the Johannesburg and Cape Town regions, which opened my eyes to the responsibilities of senior leadership. At the beginning of 2020, my journey took me to joining the dynamic Insight Consulting team, where my initial role was to focus on delivering expert services to SA and internationally but has moved to facilitating the growth and success of the consulting team over the country.
What lessons have you learnt during your career that you have applied to your life?
There is always an opportunity to help someone learn, to grow their abilities and enable them to be better and in doing so, we learn and grow ourselves.