Up-to-data: An Interview with Cyrus Facciano

This week OMA catches up with data guru Cyrus Facciano.

Facciano is a creator, innovator and entrepreneur with a passion for technology and people. Connecting innovations in technology with actionable outcomes for real people is what motivates him. 

Over 18 years in the ICT industry across multiple geographies and verticals, in delivery, consulting and business development, Facciano now runs his own boutique consulting business, X is Y, which focuses on Data and Cloud advisory services.

Passionate about new business models and disruptive approaches to traditional ways of doing things. Equally passionate about strong cultural values and building and working in teams that are unified to a common cause.

Thrown on the hot seat, Facciano answers six venturesome questions about the current and future states of data.

1. To you, why is data important?

Data is a means of communication. From the stories, we told around the fire, paintings on cave walls, carvings on stone tablets, to ink on paper and to the current digital age, data tells a story about us humans. The difference in the digital age is the level of instrumentation, recording and storage of the data that tells the story. In recent times, we’ve been able to capture information about us as human beings in unprecedented ways. I’m excited about data and it’s important because it has become this new, mysterious resource that we’ve created, with untold stories that could unlock numerous secrets about us and potentially solve some of humankind’s greatest challenges.

2. What’s the difference between small data vs big data?

Ostensibly, small data is the traditional data organisations have dealt with, like financials and sales figures. Big data is a new term which is basically all the new large volumes and varieties of data we’re seeing in the digital age; sensor data, social media data, image analytics and so on. The latter has created a sea change in the kind of technology we need to make sense of this new data, but in doing so, is having implications on what we can do with small data too, so the terms really need to converge into just “data.”

3. What can you do with data? With small data? With big? Can it be used negatively?

I don’t think we have an answer to that question. One of the greatest issues in the data industry is the massive gulf between expectation, or the “art of the possible” vs reality in terms of capability. Data has a massive propensity to “hyper-ideation.” Most organisations struggle with prioritising which idea to move on first. Like most things, of course it can be used for nefarious means. That’s why I think trust is such an important factor. Eventually, organisations are going to get more and more sophisticated with data and get more and more insight into who you are and what you like and don’t like, how they choose to act on that data and who they choose to share that data with, is where it’s gets spooky. As this sophistication increases and companies begin to offer easy, frictionless choices tailored to you, it’s going to be interesting to see what effect that has on society and free will. I’m sure it will become an ethical and philosophical debate sooner than we think, particularly as Artificial Intelligence becomes more mainstream.

4. What’s your best experience with data? Business-wise and personally?

Strangely, I think it’s as simple as unlocking previously unknown insights. Which says a lot for the maturity of the industry! It’s pretty cool to see customers having that eureka moment. I also really get a kick out of helping organisations identify the meaning of data to them, its purpose and getting momentum into the organisation to really make a start at unlocking its value. Personally speaking, I love statistics as a means to quickly and easily get a better understanding of things. As I’m more of an intuitive person, I really like the interplay between intuition as a means of hypothesis and analytics as a means of validation.

5. Why are projects for big data failing? Recently, in a Forbes article, they make the comparisons to “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”. The answer to life’s biggest mystery is 42 and everyone is upset. The writer of the article says it’s because are we are not sophisticated enough to come up with the right questions, the specific question. Would you agree or disagree, and why?

I agree to an extent. When I read that article, one of my favourite sayings sprang to mind; “Hope is not a strategy.” I think the issue is more in that organisations don’t have a strategy for data vs the data itself. A sound strategy helps form the purpose of data to the organisation and therefore what data needs to be collected (if not already.) A common piece of advice you hear is “start with the question you’re asking” which is a good strategy but in my view lacks the other half of the equation which is “finish with the action you’re going to take and how you’re going to measure it.” Data is involved in both halves in the sense that the availability of data typically changes the questions you ask iteratively, but it also allows you to measure the efficacy of the action you take as a result.

6. What is the future for data?

I think the future of data is ultimately Artificial Intelligence (AI.) AI learns about the world through data, the more we generate and store, the better AI gets. Ultimately, where that takes us is a whole other topic of discussion. The experts are pretty split as to timeframes and implications, but they all agree that AI requires more care and consideration than anything humanity has ever encountered. I’m curious to see how it plays out. The potential is beyond our imagination.

If you want to chat about data or other marketing topics, give us a ring and join the content revolution!

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