As part of a series of industry interviews we’re hoIding, we recently chatted to Lorcan Malone
, CEO of The Analytics Institute, to get his expert opinions and insights into the Analytics and AI sector within Ireland. Lorcan kindly shared some really valuable advice, trends and words of wisdom. Please enjoy the full interview below.
Lorcan, thank you for being here. In your opinion, why do you think data analytics and AI are important in everyday life?
Data impinges on every aspect of our lives and is hugely important when it comes to choice and decision making. Take for example, since the Covid19 pandemic you could really see the importance of data where people could use data to track and trace what was going on daily in order to help them make better decisions.
If you look at things like health, data is becoming crucial in terms of diagnostics and treatments for patients. Another example would be the increasing cost of living throughout Ireland and how that data is being analysed to make decisions for gas and electricity.
The ubiquitous nature of the internet means that we now have a lot of data at our fingertips, with Ireland being a central hub for European data. So with the accessibility to this data, it then speeds up decision making and gives us more choice. Even in terms of AI, we see it in things such as banking apps now which shows AI has become increasingly important as well.
What’s your favourite thing about working within the data analytics/AI industry?
My favourite thing about working in this sector is the community that we work with. Data analytics and AI people tend to enjoy sharing knowledge and experiences and we find that the Analytics Institute is a great platform to do this. It is remarkable how companies that might otherwise compete with each other tend to be able to share information willingly and help each other within the institute. I think that is the most enjoyable aspect of my role.
For example, we will have over 2000 people at our conference in November and 300 people at our National Analytics and AI awards in June. It’s great because everyone knows each other and it is a real sense of community.
Competitors want to come together and want to learn from each other. Everyone wants to get better at this stuff. People even use the term ‘analytics community’. I haven’t really seen that in other sectors such as sales and marketing where it is all about competition. People in the data world seem to be very much happy to be part of that community to get advice and learn from one another.
How do you feel Ireland is performing within the data analytics/AI field compared to other countries?
Ireland is definitely a leading light in terms of data and analytics. For example, Ireland is the leading country in Europe in relation to open data from government. Also, more than half of all of Europe’s data resides within the ‘M50 corridor’. So we have a huge amount of data warehouses here and are a trusted location for data.
We have 120 corporate and government organisations as members. Some of the leading companies in the world are based in Ireland. Those with the biggest amounts of data such as Google, Microsoft and IBM so we have got some very big leading lights here.
In saying that, we are probably a little behind particularly American companies and perhaps UK companies in terms of AI development. We had a slow start but we are certainly catching up. We previously did a report with PWC on that topic exploring ‘How did Ireland compare with the US’ and we found that we were about 3 years behind in terms of AI but we are catching up quite quickly and becoming more widespread in terms of its usage.
Are there any recent trends or developments that you believe will drive the growth of data analytics/AI over the next 5 years? (In Ireland, EU or globally).
Firstly, there is a huge demand for skills in the area. We are only being slowed up by the fact that it is difficult for organisations to recruit quickly enough. Skilled, knowledgeable people are still in short supply. Universities are doing a great job of producing graduates into the sector which is helping but we could go faster if we had access to more staff. As a result of the shortage the salary levels have gone increasingly high. It is becoming more expensive to do analytics for organisations as salaries are increasing at a phenomenal rate in the area.
In terms of what will grow analytics, I think we will see rapid expanses in the use of analytics and AI particularly in healthcare and pharmaceutical markets and banking and finance. As organisations maximise their use of data to build new forms of revenue and improve efficiencies that will lead to more organisations investing even further and that will drive growth. Once we start seeing good results, this will encourage organisations.
So far what we’ve seen is data analytics moving from the periphery in organisations into the centre. In other words, the data people are now part of the senior management in organisations. Seven years ago when I first set up the Analytics Institute, analytics was seen as something that was done by specialists in the IT sector whereas now data is much more a strategic pillar of organisations.
Who do you look up to as a role model within the sector? Do you have any books/podcasts/ted talk recommendations?
Prof. Barry O’Sullivan, UCC. Barry is a leading expert in Europe on AI and ethics around AI. He has also been involved with some very successful start-up companies and is a real inspiration.
Bill Schmarzo. He is a published author, professor and a leading expert in the area. He is a visionary and a business man who has worked for the likes of EMC at a global level. An evangelist for data some might say. In fact, Bill’s books are used in the analytics and AI professional diploma. Anyone who undertakes our diploma must complete a review of Bill’s books. We will also have him speaking in our conference in November again.
What advice would you give to someone looking to pursue a career within the data analytics/AI industry?
Go for it. Its growing rapidly. T&Cs of employment are excellent.
The industry needs more talented people, particularly women. When we started out women were less than 20% of the sector and are now up at 35% in our last salary survey. It is great to see the increasing amount of women leaders in analytics and AI. We will actually have a special event for women in the industry in July.
It is an industry that lends itself to gender balance because when you are trying to make predictions on human behaviour using analytics, you have to be sure that you are not bias towards a male view of the world versus a female view of the world. There is a need to improve obvious and hidden biases that are present in many datasets in organisations. Diversity in general is very important to the analytics and AI world but I think particularly more female involvement which is great to see.
If you found this interview insightful, you can follow Lorcan Malone on LinkedIn
or visit the Analytics Institute here
And please do get in touch with us and let us know what your thoughts are on any of the questions posed to Lorcan.
Posted: 27/04/2022 20:47:07