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As a former consultant, I’ve always been intrigued by the ambivalence that punctuates the conclusion of a consulting engagement: more than once my colleagues and I found ourselves caught between the exhilaration of having delivered ambitious outcomes and the melancholy of seemingly unfinished business. “Comes with the territory”, we’d tell new consultants less familiar with the odd blend of unsatisfying fulfilment. In professional services, consultants are placed to accelerate their clients on a path toward sustainable transformation; by design, once progress was being made, it was time to step back and return the client space to move forward.

For a…

How managing uncertainty can look different with Data

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“When will we have our <insert data-backed solution here> deliverable?”

Many of us thrive on certainty; in most, if not all aspects of life, having a view of some foreseeable future invokes a sense of tranquility and blissful order. When it comes to technology, bringing control into uncertain environments is the brainchild of planning frameworks, and through the years businesses have embraced Waterfall, Agile, Lean, Lean-Agile, Lean-Waterfall (I jest)…the list goes on.

Motivating these frameworks is the need to demonstrate progress at regular, predictable intervals, while pursuing a goal for which the path remains uncertain; however, our grasp of uncertainty…

Lessons from the branch for scaling up Data & AI at Reece

Data & AI at Reece is at an exciting inflection point — poised at the heel of the proverbial growth hockey stick. As the core Data & AI practice is coalescing, ‘customers’ of our services and capabilities have growing enthusiasm (off a high baseline) for realising the value of data in improving operations, decision-making, and service innovation. The primary challenge at hand is ramping up, ramping in a sustainable way, and ramping the Reece Way.

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What got us here won’t get us there

Our team works with a strikingly diverse swathe of the business — operations, marketing, pricing, finance, logistics, people experience, reecetech through to our C-suite —…

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I was drawn to Reece in part because of its willingness to play the long game. With branch time, the business’s operational excellence was on full display, leading me to reflect on how core operating disciplines translate when delivering data solutions .

It is rare for a stakeholder discussion to go by without some reference to the proverbial project management triangle. “Good, cheap or fast: pick two” is its most rudimentary form, and it has become a standard resource management framework for the disciplined delivery manager, who must balance the cost, time and scope constaining the quality of outcomes delivered.

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Branch Time at Reece: Not your everyday induction program

I’m feeling the blues as my brief stint with the incredible team at Reece Caulfield soon concludes. Branch Time, as I’ve come to know it, is an induction ritual that helps new starters at Reece experience the beating heart of the business by spending time “working” (more on this later) alongside frontline teams. In the lead up I’d spoken to a few colleagues-to-be who generously shared their own Branch Time stories. Combined with Cam’s brilliant capture of his own experience, I realised this would be an onboarding experience to talk about.

“Don’t be too hard on yourself”

Having worked a short spell in retail during my…

And telling them apart

A few weeks ago I picked up a little book by Carlo Cipolla on impulse, led by its juicy title to think it might bring some satirical amusement. I was surprised with a balanced (although still hilarious) exposition on the human capacity for generating outcomes — be they net gains or losses. In his book Cipolla establishes a framework for evaluating these gains and losses; it struck me that two categories — Bandits and Intelligence (let’s call these Intellectuals) — map to my experiences with hiring.

  • Bandits who take actions to benefit themselves at the expense of others: There’s always…

Making Sense of Big Data

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I often return to a 2011 article by Harlan Harris when I think about building data science capability. Data science career paths, Harris proposes, are defined by its practitioners from a variety of disciplines, and its popularity built on the same narrative that saw the rise of of sabermetrics in baseball (i.e. Moneyball) — that an exotic mix of talents applied in quantitative analysis can yield superior outcomes to gut instinct.

I am inclined to agree; data science is an unusual field. It is deep (combining research methods, statistics, machine learning and computer science; plenty of definitional treatise exists) and…

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Lessons from a pandemic on the ‘Art of the Possible’

In June, I had a bite-sized taste of digital innovation — a surprise delivery of pandan-flavoured choux au craquelin. Cream-filled puffs deliciously marrying two cuisines (French and Southeast Asian), and two business models (cottage industries and digital marketing). A friend had discovered a home-based patissier on Instagram; with a click and a message, they gifted a chance to revisit childhood memories of pandan-flavoured desserts, bringing cheer in the middle of a grim lockdown.

COVID-19 is a trauma that will scar many in the years to come. In many ways it has tested our resilience, forcing businesses, communities, and governments to…

You may have heard this one before:

A Wagoner was driving a heavy load along a muddy road. He came to a part of the road where the wheels sank half-way into the mire, and the more the horses pulled, the deeper sank the wheels. So the Wagoner threw down his whip, knelt down and prayed to Hercules the Strong. “O Hercules, help me in this my hour of distress.” But Hercules appeared to him, and said: “Tut, man, don’t sprawl there. Get up and put your shoulder to the wheel.”

One of Aesop’s fables, it speaks to some of…

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“Please, speak as you might to a young child, or a golden retriever.”

Margin Call is one of my favourite films — and this line from the movie happens to be one of my all-time favourite quips. In the throes of academia when I first watched the film, it brought dry comic relief, mirroring my experience walking into thesis-defence seminars regularly packed with senior academics of the time-poor, highly acerbic variety.

In my time working as a consultant in data and digital transformation I have witnessed an insatiable appetite for “easy-to-understand” headlines, like “data-driven culture” or “leverage our data”. A…

Michelle-Joy Low

Econometrician, always curious, loves growing people, and helping businesses use data. These days I lead Data & AI @ reecetech, but all views here are my own.

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