The chief analytics officer must navigate an increasingly complex playing field of business risk, cybersecurity, financial data, employee data, and just data, period. The numbers are the numbers – it’s the making sense of them that counts. And in the eyes of Enova’s CAO Joe DeCosmo, methodologies and details must come together to deliver insight.
Catch PYMNTS’ recent conversation with DeCosmo.
PYMNTS: What does a day in the life of a Chief Analytics Officer look like?
JD: As you might expect, there is no “typical” day for a CAO. Since I oversee a relatively large department of 52 associates across six different teams, I most often check in with each team to make sure they are making progress on top priorities and help remove any roadblocks to success. I also have regular one-on-one check-ins with my leaders to make sure they are engaged and their teams have the resources they need.
In addition, I spend a good deal of my time with the rest of the leadership team at Enova to identify our key strategic priorities as a company, whether it’s employee engagement, new products or markets, and, of course, strong financial performance.
Finally, with the launch of Enova Decisions, our real-time analytics-as-a-service brand, I spend a fair amount of time executing our growth strategy with writing and speaking events, client pursuits, and delivery of custom, real-time analytics and scoring services to other companies.
PYMNTS: What is the most difficult part of your job and why?
JD: The most difficult part of my job is staying focused amid an increasingly complex and competitive landscape for analytics. The hype surrounding advanced and predictive analytics means that there are new technologies every day or week. I have to make sure that we stay focused on providing analytics that create an outstanding customer experience and financial success and not get distracted by the latest “shiny object.” By focusing on two of our core values — Best Answer Wins and Customer First — I’m able to make sure that we’re doing the right things to move our company forward. Likewise, the competition for analytics talent is higher than I have ever experienced over my 25-year career. Making sure that our employees are engaged and proud to work at Enova is critical to retaining our analysts.
PYMNTS: What do you wish you had more time to do?
JD: Play more tennis … just kidding! I wish I had more time to spend time with our analysts discussing their methodologies and data in detail and the software they’re developing while they’re developing it. Fortunately, I have a strong team, so I know the work is being done well. However, I’m still an analyst at heart, and there are times that I miss being in the weeds of an analytics project while it’s being built. I’m able to do that occasionally, but more often I review the output and implementation of a new solution rather than being hands-on while the work is being done.
PYMNTS: What have you experienced to be the benefits and drawbacks, both internally and externally, to occupying a relatively new C-suite title?
JD: Fortunately, advanced and predictive analytics is in our DNA at Enova, so the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks. The benefits are that there is company-wide commitment to analytics and understanding of the value of analytics. Analytics are involved in nearly every decision facing our businesses around the world, and as CAO, I have a seat at the table for every key decision.
The drawbacks internally are really the result of still being a relatively young, fast-growing company. As we adjust to life as an independent public company, we need to formalize many of our processes around analytics and decision-making. We have to strike the right balance with our entrepreneurial, risk-taking spirit, so we can continue to move fast and innovate as we’ve always done.
The external drawback is we’ve become known as a leader in advanced analytics. While this is in many ways positive, it also makes us the target of recruiters and other employers. Simply put, Enova is now known as a place that attracts top talent and where analysts develop quickly and move fast. Employee engagement and retention is top of mind to make sure that we stay a place where the best analysts are proud to work.
PYMNTS: What role does data have in the evolution of payments and commerce?
JD: Data and advanced analytics are critical as payments technology evolves in areas like compliance and same-day processing. Payments and transactions can be optimized in real-time, so that customers’ payments occur quickly and accurately produce better results for the business. Negative impacts on the customer also are minimized through missed or failed payments.
PYMNTS: What is the one thing that most people miss about the importance of data in decision-making?
JD: Most leaders understand the importance of data these days in all aspects of decision-making. I think what is missed is the value of speed and scale. Customers these days demand instant answers, so building data and analytics solutions that respond in seconds is critical to a good customer experience. Too often, folks focus on an interesting piece of data or insight that may not actually produce a better, more seamless customer experience or outcome. Understanding the value of real-time models and infrastructure that can grow in complexity and scale is often overlooked, but ultimately critical to success.
PYMNTS: How has your personal relationship with data changed since taking a leadership role in advancing its interests in the corporate world?
JD: Great question! Honestly, I think it’s made me appreciate even more the companies that use data well for a better customer experience. When I think about the products and services I value most, they are most often companies that have invested heavily in capturing useful data about my own interactions and then using it to create better experiences for me down the road. On the flip side, I do often get frustrated when companies fail to connect the dots with data and treat me in a way that’s inconsistent with my past behavior.