Analytics’ ‘Unlimited’ Potential
March 22, 2012
When Prophet launched its Analytics practice earlier this year, it tapped James Walker, a 20-year Analytics veteran with an entrepreneurial background, to lead it. Walker’s resume includes managing the launch of several ventures, including Nunwood Consulting and Edge Consulting. Walker also brings an unbridled optimism about the potential of the practice, particularly as the company continues to expand into emerging international markets. By 2015, he says Analytics will comprise one-quarter of Prophet’s business, and says the potential size of this new market is “unlimited.”
Consulting: Why did you want to lead the new analytics practice at Prophet?
Walker: What impressed me about Prophet was the seriousness of intent about building an analytics business. I spoke to lots of people who wanted to build a practice where analytics was merely a supporting feature of the other parts of the business, where analytics was something that enabled the other practices, whereas what the team of Prophet wanted was to build an analytics business where people come to Prophet for analytics, where we build a world-class analytics team. We wanted to build a very 21st-Century business, mindful of the marketing communications revolution that has taken place over the last 20 years.
Consulting: Why is the timing right for Prophet to launch this practice?
Walker: Given the history of Prophet, particularly in Brand and Marketing consulting, it’s more the realization that no one else really had the initiative to build an Analytics business that really draws together the old and the new in terms of marketing communication. You have some new businesses focused in digital, with an exclusion of TV, press and radio, and you have some boutiques very much in the old world, just focused on TV, and you have some boutiques in the digital ghetto of just looking at CRM one to one, so it’s quite unusual to have a vision that you can build a business that would put all these things together in a sort of holistic, 360-degree way, that vision I think is unique in the consulting world.
Consulting: What are clients demanding in this new analytics space?
Walker: If you imagine a Venn Diagram where clients want to have three different kinds of help: They want to have help developing their own resources and capabilities to do this kind of work themselves, and be able to have folks like us equip them with the tools and training to do this 21st-Century kind of analytics in the marketing communication space. Sometimes they also want to be able to ask (when there’s a demand for work that can be done at a lower cost, at scale, perhaps with offshore resources) how can Prophet help them do that? That’s the second part of the diagram. The third part is, occasionally there’s a strategic project where you want an outside perspective for reasons of building a new strategic vision. What we’re hearing from clients is an interesting three-legged stool of where they want these three things to work together.
Consulting: What do you think the market potential is for this new analytics practice?
Walker: Unlimited. I would certainly see analytics being at least as large as Prophet’s Brand and Marketing practices. In terms of global market for analytics, absolutely unlimited as more and more data becomes available, and as the sheer grunt of computer power increases, the size of the market is just unlimited. This can certainly be a multi-billion dollar market.
Consulting: How will you be staffing these engagements?
Walker: We are doing a few things: hiring specialists from industry, from financial services, as well as taking from our existing resources. We’re going to be focused on new types of models and new technologies and processes that will be differentiated into the analytics we do. I don’t think anyone else can take marketing analytics and turn it into recommendations that can get a marketing team organized in the same way we do. It’s going to be an interesting combination of super-hardcore analytics resources partnered with a brand and marketing firm at Prophet.
Consulting: What are your goals for revenue or headcount?
Walker: We intend to have a 100- person strong practice by 2015 that will be doing work across all the geographies where Prophet works. I estimate it will be a quarter of Prophet’s business by 2015. As we start a new practice, we have the opportunity to start from the bottom up with a global ambition in mind as well as focusing on the U.S., because that’s where the bulk of Prophet’s current clients and revenue is. In building a new practice considering what the world will look like in 2015, Prophet’s analytics business and revenue profile overall is going to be far more global.
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