Financial Firm Aligns Analytics With Customers

By Peter High  |  Posted 08-10-2016 Print Email

Greenwich Associates’ Global CIO reveals how the financial advisory firm has expanded its offerings to include subscription-based analytical products and services.

Greenwich Associates is the leading global provider of market intelligence and advisory services to the financial services industry. The company specializes in providing fact-based insights and practical recommendations to improve business results, and the insights and advice provided is based on the company's business expertise and research that the team conducts with influential buyers of financial services. The buyers include fund managers, hedge funds, pension funds, endowments, large corporations, small and midsize businesses, and consumers.

Isaac Sacolick joined the company as Global CIO in January 2015 to lead Greenwich Associates' Business Transformation Initiative, develop its data technology capabilities and to establish its product management practices. To accomplish this, the Digital Business Group (the rebranded IT department) rolled out business intelligence tools, a content management system, new market research tools and upgraded CRM and sales management capabilities. CIO Insight contributor Peter High discusses with Sacolick some of the nuts and bolts that were required to make the initiative ready for action.   

Peter High: Part of your focus has been on developing subscription-based revenue for your firm. Please describe the service and the value it has derived.

Issac Sacolick: Greenwich's core business has historically been delivering consulting, advisory services and market research to banking executives. Much of the insight delivered to clients has been through proprietary data that we source on service quality, market share and other benchmarks as well as research on topics including customer experience, payments, fraud, e-trading, blockchain, and other technology innovations in financial services.

Greenwich is extending its consulting practices to include subscription-based analytical products and services. In some cases, this includes tools that provide customers access to the underlying data visualizations and benchmarks. Using these tools, clients can perform their own analysis on how their products are performing, determine what accounts are at risk, research new opportunities, or develop strategic plans to grow market share. We are also integrating with our customers' analytical tools, data warehouses, CRM systems, and research tools to help enable the use of our own analytics and research in their workflows.

Peter High: Can you describe how you partner with Greenwich Associates' Chief Data Officer and CEO to establish the firm's product strategy?

Issac Sacolick: The three of us along with our SVP of Product Management form a steering meeting that sets strategy, develops plans on transforming existing product offerings, reviews business plans for new investments, and considers partnership opportunities. We bring different knowledge, skills and experiences to the table and have different roles working the details of our product strategy. For example, our CDO may propose a repackaging of our data into a workflow that matches customer needs. Our SVP of Product will then test the concept with customers, and I will review the technology as well as sourcing requirements, while ensuring the product planning is executed efficiently. When we have concepts that resonate in the market, our CEO will consider how we communicate internally and align business leaders to revenue targets or operational changes.

As a team, we're all focused on developing product pipelines, transforming how we sell, and growing, our analytical capabilities aligned with customer needs.

Peter High: Please describe and Market Structure and how your team has worked to get these off the ground.

Issac Sacolick: First, we had to get some of the nuts and bolts in order. Both of these businesses provide subscription access to research, but on disparate platforms that were ill-equipped to provide adequate user experiences for or reach new customers with. Both products had poor mobile experiences and were lacking basic web analytics.

We fixed this by consolidating the underlying technology platforms and basic business practices while enabling both products to differentiate capabilities where it was deemed strategically important. We leveraged an open-source platform (Drupal) as it enabled us to select best-in-breed components and configure them to business needs, rather than developing customized approaches and software. We aligned on a digital strategy for these products and then leveraged an agile development process to prioritize business needs and collaborate on the implementation.

Having completed this transition earlier this year, we're now focused on reaching new audiences, selling subscriptions to new customers, reviewing usage to optimize our research topics, and evaluating opportunities to develop new capabilities.

Peter High: How have you established business intelligence platforms to transform the firm's analytics and data delivery capabilities?

Issac Sacolick: The BI and data platform landscape is evolving, so we have a roadmap of platforms that we're maturing, some that we're actively sun-setting and others that we're prototyping for potential new capabilities.

Our most significant investment to date has been around our analytics and data visualization platform. First, we're enabling our consulting teams to perform more real time analysis using standardized calculations, dashboards and visuals. Our next stage will be to enable client access and develop new product offerings.

Second, we're also investing in our internal BI capabilities for our data scientists and analysts. We're doing this by providing easy-to-use BI tools that target business users and enable them with both data governance and technical practices to ensure successful utilization of our data in ways meaningful to business. We've invested in data integration and quality tools to help integrate data sources and automate quality improvements.

Peter High: What other technology trends intrigue you as you look three to five years into the future?

Issac Sacolick: I post about many short and longer term trends on my blog, Social Agile and Transformation and my twitter feed @nyike.

I continue to scout for "citizen development" technologies that better enable our business users to successfully perform their own data aggregations, data visualizations, workflow enhancements, knowledge sharing and collaboration. At Greenwich Associates, we're using QuickBase to develop collaborative workflows and starting to use QlikSense to enable business users to develop dashboards of our CRM and ERP data.

Looking beyond this, I think enabling "Analytics-as-a-Service" is intriguing when many businesses need to enable faster and smarter decision-making with a wider variety and velocity of data. Citizen development can help extend analysis to a larger talent pool, but it will be equally interesting to experiment with artificial intelligence and machine learning services to discover new trends and enable predictive analytics.

Peter High is President of Metis Strategy, a business and IT advisory firm. His latest book is Implementing World Class IT Strategy. He is also the author of World Class IT: Why Businesses Succeed When IT Triumphs. Peter moderates the Forum on World Class IT podcast series. He speaks at conferences around the world. Follow him on Twitter @PeterAHigh.


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