Up close with Andy Kilbane

Andy, Lead Consultant at Realise Unlimited, shares insight on his background and working life at Realise Unlimited.

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Talk us through how you landed your first role in the industry…

My degree was a 4-year Batchelor of Science course in Business System Modelling which I would describe as a numerate business degree with modules including maths and statistics. The 3rd year was a placement year in industry and following a number of different interviews I was placed with a company called Empire Stores Ltd who were a mail order catalogue (those days are long gone!) working in the credit analytics team. To be honest, at the time it was about finding a placement with a reasonable salary and location but I found myself in a great team, learnt to programme in SAS and SQL and really enjoyed my year with them, so much so that I returned following graduation. I didn’t find credit/risk analytics was the most exciting field for my longer term career though and after 2 years I moved in to a role with an insurance company focused on marketing analytics which I loved, working with different clients to help them improve their marketing performance and the rest is history.

What most excites you about your role and working at Realise?

It is very simple, 1) People and 2) Making a difference both within Realise and for the Unlimited Group and our clients. I feel very fortunate to work with a very talented group of individuals who have the same passion and drive to make a difference but do so with the same values. We work extremely hard having fun along the way and there are lots of different off shoots outside of work from watching a colleague in his band, playing golf, running and of course having a few drinks. Realise allow and actively encourage each and every one of us to explore new and exciting techniques in the data science space to ensure we can deliver a material difference for our clients in a collaborative way. Finally, the client list at Realise provides the opportunity to work with some really exciting and innovative brands and sectors. During my time with the company I have worked for clients in media, retail, finance, leisure and housing sectors. One particularly great example was when I worked with an investment bank to help them prioritise who to talk to, when and regarding which product portfolios by creating a lead scoring system that drove a 550% improvement in successful call rates.

If you could change one thing about the industry for the better, what would it be?

I think the industry is already moving in the right direction but slower than expected and
there is a need to always look for that next incremental improvement no matter how small. I started in the industry 20 years ago when being ‘data driven’ through the use of analytics and data science was still relatively new and this was very much the case for the majority of organisations I was involved with. There are many different terms used today for the field we work in and it still amazes me when I talk to different clients in different sectors that they still don’t really understand how data and analytics can make a really big difference to their day to day job and ultimately the performance of their business. Something as simple as answering a few key questions can make a big difference: A) Are they clear on what they are trying to achieve? B) Why are they doing this? C) What success looks like? D) Can they measure what they are doing to understand if it was successful and what needs to change next time. I’d ask everyone to start small & simple to prove the value data/analytics can drive before building the business case for longer term investment in resource and technology.

I think the industry is already moving in the right direction but slower than expected and there is a need to always look for that next incremental improvement no matter how small.

What has been your favourite piece of client work to date?

It is a very difficult question to answer because each project is unique and I’ve enjoyed working with and building relationships with lots of different clients. But if I have to choose one project that I look back on very positively, it was something I was involved in during my first year with Realise. The client was a retailer who were doing very little in this space and didn’t really know where to start even though they knew the value it could bring. We ran our capability assessment project interviewing all areas of the business with the result being a recommended roadmap for them to progress with in relation to data, reporting, analytics, tools & process. We helped them to get started on the roadmap before they took full ownership internally. The great story behind this was when they reached the end of the roadmap, approx 18 months down the line, and they asked Realise to re-engage to shape the next 18 months! Personally, this really reflects how we like to work with our clients; always ensuring we leave them with a deployed solution that they can progress on their own and of course that they keep asking for further support.


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