DAVID MYTON talks to RoZetta CEO David Sharp
Back in the day David Sharp was a more than useful cricketer. As an opening batsman who played First Grade in Melbourne and Sydney, he faced up to bowlers who went on to be international Test superstars. The link to cricket continued when he embarked on his university degree. One of his lecturers was a senior professor who had worked on developing a model to predict the outcome of International one-day games leveraging historical data.
“I remember this being a great illustration of the power of combining data, analytics and technology,” says Sharp, who has been CEO of RoZetta Technology – part of the CMCRC-SIRCA Group – for almost three years.
“With data and analytics you are trying to solve problems, create efficiencies or drive a competitive advantage and make life better for organisations and individuals,” he says.
“And we do this by developing customised solutions to load, transform, store, secure, share, analyse and link data sets that answer the big questions. The genie is out of the bottle … there’s value in data – everyone knows that now.”
However, he adds, not all data is valuable: “You have still got to understand the problem that you are trying to solve or the opportunity you are trying to leverage and then test whether the data sources you are collecting will assist – and that’s an art, which is increasingly becoming a vital business skill”.
And that art and skill can be found in abundance at RoZetta.
Always fascinated by numbers
Growing up in Melbourne, Sharp was always fascinated by numbers. He elected to study maths and computer science at Victoria’s Swinburne University and soon developed an interest in operations research, which in a virtuous circle sharpened his maths and statistical prowess.
His degree was “all about applying maths and statistics into business processes, which was not as common then as it is today”.
‘If you are running any business where you are not measuring performance of every core function or process, then you are going to be at a disadvantage’
“When you look at today’s environment, data analytics are a given. And if you are running any business where you are not measuring performance of every core function or process, then you are going to be at a disadvantage – meaning you will struggle to improve service to customers whilst maintaining or improving margin.”
Having worked within the media industry using data and tools produced by global analytics business Experian, Sharp established his own company – Sharp & Anderson Marketing Consulting (which became fully acquired by Data Advantage Ltd in 2000 and now known as Equifax).
“When I first started my business we were extracting customer data out of retail systems that the retailers didn’t even know existed,” Sharp recalls.
“A customer may have bought furniture 15 years ago, for example, but the business owner didn’t understand that they had stored customer data. However, he did. There were delivery details, names, addresses, date of purchase, delivery date, product code and pricing and the like stored in the old operational delivery system (used by finance and the warehouse), so we would take that data and match it to geographic and demographic data and very quickly develop a profile of the customers.
We would even de-duplicate the data and create a single customer view to understand customer value, frequency of purchase, potential value etc. We would then set up targeted marketing campaigns that worked exceedingly well.
“It was no surprise the campaigns were a success when you invite a valuable customer to attend a specific event designed to meet their needs whilst also acknowledging their historical loyalty. Many clients thought we were geniuses when in fact we were simply harnessing their own data assets.”
As trust was built with the client, the company branched into more sophisticated work such as where to place new stores, forecast sales potential in catchments around new and existing stores, and optimise store locations based on market potential.
Then in 1998 following the partial sale of his business, Sharp took up a role as a senior executive within Veda Ltd (now Equifax), responsible for the marketing, property and credit analytics business units. The business scaled to provide significant target marketing data management platforms to support customer acquisition and customer management programs for clients such as Citibank, AMEX, NAB, ANZ, Bank West, Westpac, AGL, and Energy Australia to name a few.
In 2010 he joined Grays eCommerce Group running marketing and customer analytics before being appointed Executive General Manager overseeing GeG Consumer and Wine auction businesses, as well as its retail division.
Within 10 years the volume of customer data available to retailers had substantially changed. Online retailers with the right investment in platforms could monitor the complete journey of their customers through their decision phase, buying phase, fulfilment experience and post purchase satisfaction.
Originally, Sharp wanted to call his data analytics business Precision Marketing although it was already taken. “In today’s data-driven economy ‘precision’ is a good term to use when considering how to maintain and grow any business, where knowing your customer and optimizing their experience is vital.”
Re-engaging with pure data, analytics and technology
Sharp took up the RoZetta leadership role almost three years ago, a move prompted, he says, by a desire to re-engage with “pure data, analytics and technology” to solve major problems or create opportunities whilst working in a creative entrepreneurial environment.
‘For all of data’s intrinsic value, it cannot analyse itself or make its own decisions – it has to be cleansed, validated, interpreted and analysed so that value can be derived with confidence’
Big Data, or complex data, he says, is today a crucial element in the operations and decision-making of business, industry and government – but not everyone has the skill and capacity to quarry its full value.
He points out an obvious, but frequently overlooked, fact: for all of data’s intrinsic value, it cannot analyse itself or make its own decisions – “it has to be cleansed, validated, interpreted and analysed so that value can be derived with confidence”.
“Part of what we do at RoZetta is to help organisations and individuals to see diverse, complex data as their ally,” he says.
A trusted data, analytics, and technology expert
Sharp says RoZetta has consistently demonstrated that it is a trusted expert “from analytics that add value to the data, to data management technology that enables business, industry and organisations to make meaningful decisions”.
The organisation is well-known for its key role in developing the industry transformative Thomson Reuters Tick History platform.
RoZetta, Sharp explains, gathers information and data from 450 stock markets around the world every day, ingesting some 10 billion transactions a day, preparing it, curating it, presenting it back for Thomson Reuters to sell to more than 600 global banks and hedge funds trading globally.
“That impacts multitudes of buying and selling decisions globally every day and it has changed the way trading is conducted around the world by allowing that data to be accessible,” he says.
RoZetta remains heavily engaged in capital markets, he says, and also has strong links with Australian and New Zealand universities who utilise the cloud based collaborative research platform to enable research into capital markets and other finance-related areas.
‘After 20 years of successful industry partnerships and a growing demand for data scientist talent our Industrial PhD program has a big future’
It also plays a significant role in the CMCRC-SIRCA’s group’s world-leading Industrial PhD program helping to secure new industry partners committed to collaborating around real Research & Development.
“The iPhD program resonates extremely well with our clients,” he says. “It’s a terrific way to introduce specialist human capital into a clients R&D investments to compliment subject matter expertise within the organisation. After 20 years of successful industry partnerships and a growing demand for data scientist talent our iPhD program has a big future.”
Summing up the value of data, Sharp says: “An informed business will make the better decisions more often than not and leveraging specialist data, analytics and technology is a key driver to maintaining a competitive advantage.”