How to Master Your Data Journey

Covers of Info We Trust, Visual Analytics with Tableau, The Big Book of Dashboards
From ideas to dashboards: The Data Journey Canon

Last year I started lecturing a Data Analytics course at university (as part of an MBA program). In the meanwhile, I was refining the list of books that I highly recommend to read. Three of these books form the Data Journey!

What is the Data Journey?

The Data Journey is a human-focused approach to understand the evolution of data storytelling, the power of visual analytics, and the impact of data from real-world business scenarios.

1. Info We Trust: How to Inspire the World with Data

We start our Data Journey with the book Info We Trust. This book examines all parts of the data storytelling lifecycle across disciplines. The use of marginalia and hand-drawn illustrations give you both simple lessons to take away, and insights into where to find out more. The book is full of magnificent references that inspire further reading.

Info We Trust: How to Inspire the World with Data
  • RJ Andrews
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Edition no. 1 (01.03.2019)
  • Gebundene Ausgabe: 272 pages

2. Visual Analytics with Tableau

Now it’s time for hands-on. Visual Analytics with Tableau covers everything you need to get started with Tableau (students get Tableau for free!). The book guides you from the first steps of connecting to data, creating different types of charts, and adding calculation fields to more advanced features such as table calculations, forecasts, and clusters, as well as R, Python, and MATLAB integration for sophisticated statistical modeling.

Visual Analytics with Tableau
  • Alexander Loth
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Edition no. 1 (31.05.2019)
  • Taschenbuch: 288 pages

3. The Big Book of Dashboards: Visualizing Your Data Using Real-World Business Scenarios

Back to business (as this course is designed for an MBA program). We close our Data Journey canon with The Big Book of Dashboards. This is a comprehensive reference book with real-world solutions for business dashboards and detailed analysis of do’s and don’ts. The examples in this book are well-organized and categorized by industry and functional business areas.

The Big Book of Dashboards: Visualizing Your Data Using Real-World Business Scenarios
  • Steve Wexler, Jeffrey Shaffer, Andy Cotgreave
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Edition no. 1 (02.06.2017)
  • Taschenbuch: 448 pages

[Update 10 July 2019]: Do you need more inspiration?

#MakeoverMonday: Improving How We Visualize and Analyze Data, One Chart at a Time

Because vizzing alone is only half the fun, you should not miss the #MakeoverMonday book. Eva Murray and Andy Kriebel are icons in the data visualization community (read the interview!) and they have curated the thousands of visualizations from the #MakeoverMonday project into a practical guide that will take your design and data communication skills to the next level!

#MakeoverMonday: Improving How We Visualize and Analyze Data, One Chart at a Time
  • Andy Kriebel, Eva Murray
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Edition no. 1 (04.12.2018)
  • Taschenbuch: 496 pages

Which books would you recommend for the #DataJourney?

Share your favorite data books in the blog post comments or reply to this tweet:

How China is winning in the Age of Artificial Intelligence

Alibaba Campus
Alibaba Campus

Currently, I’m on a 4-week China trip, visiting many cities. In Hangzhou, I met CEIBS peers who work for Alibaba. While the Alibaba campus is quite impressive, I got even more impressed by Alibaba’s leadership culture, which is encouraging its employees to innovate as intrapreneurs.

If you start your own project (a new mobile app, a patent, a scientific paper, etc.), you’re doing it in your own pace, you’re not being micro-managed and you’ll receive a bonus based on success. Intrapreneurship at Alibaba is just one of many examples where we (Europeans) can learn a lot from China!

Yue and me, Hangzhou West Lake

While traveling in China I was reading AI Superpowers: China Silicon Valley, and the New World Order by Kai-Fu Lee, a book that is a must-read to get an idea where China’s AI ambitions are heading to. What matters most for AI innovation these days, the author argues, is access to vast quantities of data—where China’s advantage is overwhelming.

AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley, and the New World Order
  • Kai-Fu Lee
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Gebundene Ausgabe: 272 pages

A quite entertaining book focusing on the new mindset of China’s young generation is this one: Young China: How the Restless Generation Will Change Their Country and the World by Zak Dychtwald.

Young China: How the Restless Generation Will Change Their Country and the World
  • Zak Dychtwald
  • Publisher: ST MARTINS PR
  • Gebundene Ausgabe: 304 pages

[Update 2 May 2019]: Which other cities in China did I visit? Check out my Tableau Public viz:

Leadership: Stagnation Kills Your Business, 3 Times

Petronas Twin Towers
Petronas Twin Towers held the title of the tallest building in the world for six years (Flickr)

Your business has been thriving, and the pipeline is well filled with work? Don’t get comfortable too soon. Stagnation kicks in fast nowadays, and kills your business’ innovation, its growth, and its people.

1. Innovation 

The speed of transformation that we are currently witnessing is challenging all of us to think differently. Every industry can be disrupted, there is no safe habour. So we need to deliver our products and services in a way that is relevant today, not yesterday.

Minor product iterations do not work forever. We need to prepare product revolutions, not just iterations on what we were selling since ten years. Establishing an innovation lab engages our employees to think in innovative ways and lift our business to new heights.

2. Growth

We need to adjust our business development plan to drive business growth. This should not be a static document. Customer and market definition are changing fast and we need to adopt this in our sales strategy and in our product development.

This does not work without data. Therefore we need to implement a data strategy. Our data strategy guides our entire business how to collect and analyze data, and how to generate the insights that we use for our decisions. If we do not take advantage of data, our competition will do.

3. People

Sushi Google DoodleIt is essential for leaders to recognize that you cannot possibly manage everything. We need to employ great people. But recruiting is not the end. We need to keep your talents, empower them, and motivate them to take initiative in their roles. Stagnation will rotate employees out of the company.

Offering free sushi and laundry service might impress our new hires from university. Experienced and independent employees will be more interested in career perspectives. We should establish personal development plans for everyone, not just for the designated managers.

Although it is important for leaders to set such a career framework, we should not forget to invest in your employees’ training. Both, hard skills (technical) and soft skills (non-technical), are mandatory because they each play very important roles in the development of our employees.

In Summary

Yesterday’s innovations are tomorrow’s commodities. We need to invest in innovations, otherwise we will face disruptive competition. Creating insights from data is important for the iterative adjustments on our business development plan. Offering personal development plans and proper training avoids stagnation for your employees, which is causing brain drain.

This post is also published on LinkedIn.

How to unleash Data Science with an MBA?

Servers record a copy of LHC data and distribute it around the world for Analytics

My Data Science journey starts at CERN where I finished my master thesis in 2009. CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, is the home of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) and has some questions to answer: like how the universe works and what is it made of. CERN collects nearly unbelievable amounts of data – 35 petabytes of data per year that needs analysis. After submitted my thesis, I continued my Data Science research at CERN.

I began to wonder: Which insights are to be discovered beyond Particle Physics? How can traditional companies benefit from Data Science? After almost four exciting years at CERN with plenty of Hadoop and Map/Reduce, I decided to join Capgemini to develop business in Big Data Analysics, and to boost their engagements in Business Intelligence. In order to leverage my data-driven background I enrolled for the Executive MBA program at Frankfurt School of Finance & Management including an Emerging Markets module at CEIBS in Shanghai.

Today companies have realized that Business Analytics needs to be an essential part of their competitive strategy. The demand on Data Scientists grows exponentially. To me, Data Science is more about the right questions being asked than the actual data. The MBA enabled me to understand that data does not provide insights unless appropriately questioned. Delivering excellent Big Data projects requires a full understanding of the business, developing the questions, distilling the adequate amount of data to answer those questions and communicating the proposed solution to the target audience.

“The task of leaders is to simplify. You should be able to explain where you have to go in two minutes.” – Jeroen van der Veer, former CEO of Royal Dutch Shell

Geuro: a Parallel Currency as Alternative to the Grexit?

CEIBS MBA programme
CEIBS MBA programme

Greece has been in recession for past seven years and has already partially defaulted. Greece already has a sovereign debt crisis. The Markets are already in turmoil with bond yields very high, and stock markets falling. Greece already has bank runs. Multinationals are not keeping money in Greek banks.

Due to unemployment of 23% and youth unemployment of 53%, there already is a political backlash, with growth of extremism on both left and right of political spectrum. Recent opinion polls suggest that a new Greek government will be dominated by parties rejecting the Toika-led adjustment programme.

The Greek euro exit is the speculated self-abdication – or dismissal – of Greece from the Eurozone. This is known as Grexit, a slang term introduced in 2012 in world business trading. It is a portmanteau combining the words Greek Euro Area exit. The term was introduced by Citigroup’s Chief Analysts Willem Hendrik Buiter and Ebrahim Rahbari on 6 February 2012.

Deutsche Bank’s economics team sees, however, the potential for an alternative path. This alternative idea facilitates running a Greek parallel currency to the Euro, which Deutsche Bank dubs Geuro to represent government issued IoUs to meet current payment obligations . This would enable, in Deutsche Bank’s view, Greece to engineer exchange rate devaluation without formally exiting the EMU (Economic and Monetary Union of the European Union).

The Greek Euro Exit scenario (“Grexit”)

Compared to the hard struggle trying to recover while remaining in the Euro zone, a faster and more sustainable recover could happen if Greece decides to leave the Euro zone. Greece would begin to recover much faster if it is decoupled from the Euro, defaulted and devalued. The two biggest sectors of the Greek economy are shipping and tourism. Both could benefit hugely from a competitive devaluation.

“Plan Z” is the name given to a plan to enable Greece to withdraw from the Eurozone in the event of Greek bank collapse. It was drawn up by officials at the European Commission (Brussels), the European Central Bank (Frankfurt) and the IMF (Washington). Those officials were headed by Jörg Asmussen (member of the executive board of the European Central Bank), Thomas Wieser (Euro working group), Poul Thomsen (IMF) and Marco Buti (European Commission).

In order to prevent premature disclosure no single document was created, no emails were exchanged, and no Greece officials were informed. The plan was based on the 2003 introduction of new dinars into Iraq by the Americans and would have required rebuilding the Greek economy and banking system from the beginning, including isolating Greek banks by disconnecting them from the Target 2 system, closing ATMs and imposing capital and currency controls.

The implementation of Grexit would have to occur “within days or even hours of the decision being made” due to the high volatility that would result. It would have to be timed at one of the public holidays in Greece. In the long-term, Greece would see an improvement in domestic demand. Demand for imports would fall due to higher cost. Greece would benefit from higher exports and (if political situation stabilizes) an inflow of tourism. Furthermore, Greece would no longer feel it is following dictates of EU (i.e. Germany) and would have greater economic and political independence.

The parallel currency scenario (“Geuro”)

Due to political pressure Greece might be unlikely to formally leave the euro, nor are the other euro area countries likely to abandon Greece entirely. The path of least resistance could be the stop of financial assistance to the Greek government and the continuation of payments for debt service and the stabilization of the Greek banks in a European “Bad Bank”.

In this case, a Greek parallel currency to the euro, the Geuro, could emerge when the government issues IoUs to meet current payment obligations. This would also allow Greece to engineer exchange rate devaluation without formally exiting EMU (see chart below). Initially there would be a large depreciation, but at the same time Greek authorities would reclaim some semblance of control to stabilize or even strengthen over time their own Geuro against the Euro. In fact this would leave the door open to a return to the Euro at some point.

Parallel currency exchange rate
Parallel currency exchange rate