Seven Peaks Insights

Data Analytics and CDPs with Damien Velly

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Damien (Damo) Velly has 20 years experience in data analytics and engineering. He studied in Grenoble, France, and subsequently worked in the Defense and Space Industry. Following that he entered the United Kingdom to work on business solutions for the Automotive Industry, creating analytics dashboards for C-level management, market-facing products, and working with clients in Europe and LATAM. Damien then moved to Singapore to create digital analytics products for the GIC sovereign wealth fund, the private asset management fund mandated with investing Singapore’s foreign reserves, recently estimated by the Sovereign Wealth Fund Institute (SWFI) to hold $770 billion in value. Damien is currently the VP of Data Analytics at Seven Peaks, and brings a wealth of experience working across a wide range of industries with him, from startups to world-leading conglomerates. 

My background is applied physics, which is pretty much math-focused. 20 years ago the data race started, and I could envision the full evolution of data from where we stood back then to where we stand today. So, I started as a SQL developer. It was hard to find a job in physics, and in France we didn’t have enough opportunities in that field; however, there was a program initiated there that incentivized the companies with tax  to attract eligible candidates to learn about data sciences. It succeeded in attracting me, and I think that the program became so successful that if you look today, you will find lots of French in Data, ML, AI fields!

My experience now spans a wide range of data-intensive implementations, including building data pipeline for ad networks and mobile app advertisements, fraud detection, performing budget forecasting, data monetization and more. The use cases are myriad and have spanned all industries. For instance with the GIC, who manages a significant portion of Singapore’s foreign reserve assets, I was involved with doing reporting for all their investments – including making custom platforms and dashboards to monitor their investment performance. 

I have worked with all levels of scale, from building data infrastructure from scratch for a startup through to regional and international level organizations. Previously, I worked with Intuit Quickbooks, a popular SaaS provider, leading data analytics and collaborating directly with the CFO and CMO to recommend analytics tools for market performance in 12 countries for their GTM strategy.

I then started working with TBWA, a worldwide marketing agency, in Thailand, where I designed the data management platform for big clients to manage their marketing campaigns, targeting and retargeting marketing audiences for their businesses. After that I moved to Ho Chi Minh City where I became director of data analytics for a systems integrations (SI) company, forming a brand new team for the APAC region to deliver end-to-end data analytics. Similar to that experience,  I’ve been doing end-to-end data analytics for Seven Peaks and our clients for about 9 months now.

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Data Philosophy

What I like about data, is something that I understood since my time in the UK – that my work can actually have a direct and significant impact on any business. That’s the foundation of my philosophy, to always try to understand the business model behind a business and then try to utilize the relevant data to make a difference. Any BI solution should serve your business.  

How you use your data depends on what you want to achieve with it. Sometimes, it is driven by the needs of the business (the business should drive the technology choice, not the other way around). If the technology drives the business, then you will eventually end up being limited by the technology. A clear example of this can be seen with everyone in the automotive industry – Ford, Renault, Toyota, Porsche, Mini, Aston Martin, McLaren, it doesn’t matter – where they let technology be the driver of their business (pun intended!) and then spend enormous amounts of money towards Research & Development to expand the limitations on their business, ultimately using it as the basis of competition, seeking to secure a truly sustainable source of competitive advantage.

Another thing for data, I can tell now, is that the data solutions always follow the trends of businesses.

“Right now, the best way to win is to win the heart of the client, and it is very competitive to do so indeed. And leveraging data is the best way to win.” 

Before, businesses were more product-oriented –now it has become more customer-oriented. This is exactly where Customer Data Platforms (CDPs) are coming in more and more, and playing an ever-increasing role.

Data in Today’s Businesses

I think everybody still has a long way to go. A lot of businesses moved to digital but had no plan. Now they have to plan because without one, they are leaving money on the table. 

“For example, in today’s banking apps - how many clicks do I need to make from opening the app to use the QR function? Do my customers use international remittances? Then, I put these features up front – a business and design decision driven by data.”

The trend of moving data to the cloud, then becoming faced with high costs have led back to going on premise with your own data. But, what will be the total costs? What’s the OpEx, the CapEx? What is the fit and use of the data? Is it worth the investment? Our job is to not only understand the technology, but also the cost model of the technology solution. Some tools are SaaS, you find all tools to have in your on-premise solution. But scalability is a key issue. You need to merge what’s happening with your needs. This is directly linked to the philosophy aforementioned: the business should drive the technology.

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Data is the New Oil

I don’t believe that necessarily, because this has been a quote for 10 years now. Actually it is true, but...

“The business is still the engine. So try to have the right oil for your business.”

I’m getting excited about the AI stuff, but not too excited about it since I’ve been working with machine learning (ML) for some time now. AI will undoubtedly make a difference in a lot of industries. If the right use case is found, then that will win. But there is no intelligence in some apps, and that isn’t something that will be sustainable.

Everybody Should Have a CDP

I think that nowadays, everybody should have a CDP - if you care about your customers. Bring your use cases, and make the assessment. If you are truly customer-oriented, customer obsessed; it is definitely a tool you should consider. You will have better retention, better customer service - it will drive everything. 






“I know my customer now”

Customer Data Platform 

“My app can adjust to these preferences”

“The marketing personalization and optimization to the target persona”

We work with lots of CDP players, including best of breeds such as Segment, and MParticle. Each has their own unique features and tradeoffs; some parts are strong and others are weak. We have to consider multiple factors before choosing the most appropriate one with our clients, such as, what is the pricing model? How is the customer service, how comprehensive is the after-sales support?  

Also, there are several considerations to take into place when asking the crucial “make or buy” question. How much do you want to accelerate your scaling, your customer growth? What are the capabilities of the team you have? Do you have enough resources for it?
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Take It From an Expert

From the past, I’ve had both good and bad mentors along the way. I’ve had to learn management skills, about understanding the business, soft-skills such as how to talk to the client, etc. I’ve had three mentors: my manager in the UK, we worked together side-by-side but he would always leave at 5pm. Another person would stay with me till the end, no matter what. That’s the kind of guy you want to have on your side. It’s important to get into the people, outside of the workplace as well. 

As a manager you have to try to understand the people first, the emotions that drive them. A good manager never blamed me for my mistakes when the client came shouting. He would always take the feedback upfront, even if he knew the reasons behind it –like if it was clearly an oversight on my part. Another one taught me everything about marketing. This C-level took time to invest in me, the “data guy”, to make sure I understood everything I needed to know. These are just a few of my own anecdotes from the past that have gotten me to where I am today.

“Don’t follow the trend. Take information from your friend, but make your own decision - this is why many projects fail.”

Challenge the trend, but not just for the sake of going against it; make sure it’s right for your business. Keep good relationships. Don’t network just for the sake of networking. Try to have a real network, not something fake. For me, what was most important for my career wasn’t the money, I just wanted to learn. Try to balance what you think you will learn in your job, versus the monetary benefit. If you learn a lot in the beginning, you will have a lot to sell in the end. And that’s how I’ve built my career. 

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Damien Velly,
VP of Data and Analytics at Seven Peaks

Damien currently leads the Data Analytics department at Seven Peaks, focusing on BI Solutions,  Customer Data Platforms and End-to-End Data Solutions for clients, including for digital product design as well as implementations directed at improving User-Customer Experience (UX/CX). He brings a rich background of experience and insight from working across a wide range of industries from startups to world-class organizations. 

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