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BI 2017: One-on-One with Mark Cooper of British American Tobacco

by Nicole D'Angelo, SAPinsider Assistant Editor

March 7, 2017

Mark Cooper, Global Analytics Solution Architect at British American Tobacco (BAT), has been presenting case studies at SAPinsider events since 2011. His experience both as an SAPinsider speaker and as an analytics expert made for an in-depth and engaging conversation on site.

Mark recently completed a five-year project that placed the entire company on one global instance of SAP ERP. His role in that project was to oversee the implementation of SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.1 for SAP Business Warehouse 7.3 in this centralized landscape. Now that this project is in a stage of maturation, Mark isn’t resting on his accomplishments – his new mission is to bring modern, advanced analytics capabilities to the business alongside the maturing BI environment.

Sharing Content and Expertise Along the Journey

As long as he has ongoing projects to work on, it’s likely that Mark will continue returning to SAPinsider events. But that isn’t the only reason he comes back year after year. Mark explained that he enjoys attending SAPinsider conferences because, in a way, they stand in for SAPPHIRE and SAP TechEd. With time off for conferences being difficult to come by, it’s nice to have one conference with content that is just as valuable.  

Mark talked of how he finds the content at SAPinsider trustworthy because it’s not just a platform for vendor pitches – it’s a forum for sharing content that’s backed up by case studies and partner expertise. And at the same time, he said he’s attended sessions with the kind of technical depth that he’d expect from SAP TechEd. Mark also spoke about the excitement of interacting with attendees, other speakers, and even big names in the field on an even playing field, sharing a two-way exchange.

Regarding this two-way exchange, Mark spoke highly of the interactions he has with the attendees that come to his sessions. He enjoys speaking at SAPinsider events, he said, because, “If I can save you the pain of learning the hard way like we did, then I’ve achieved something. But also, every time I’ve delivered a session, somebody’s come up to me afterward and said, ‘We’ve already done that. Let us help you on this part of the journey.’ And that’s a big thing.” Everyone’s on different stages of the same journey, according to Mark, and it’s a great experience to find common ground with others and share their different experiences.

A New Focus on Analytics at BAT

In his own journey, Mark is currently focused on combining modern, cloud-based analytics solutions with the business’s centralized core traditional analytics environment. He described how, previously, there was an issue with overall ownership and governance in his organization’s analytics environment. In addition to SAP’s business intelligence tools, several functions in BAT were using specialized, subscription-based analytics services. The result was a variety of analytics tools that did not communicate with each other, with no centralized governance or ownership to connect everything.

The organization rectified the issue through introducing the Group Corporate Analytics function, dedicated to taking ownership of all analytics being conducted throughout enterprise. This business function will marry the robust analytics capabilities of the corporate analytics platform with agile, “as-a-service” (PaaS/SaaS) solutions used by individual business functions. With the introduction of this group, BAT can now combine analytics from different business functions in a way it never has before. Mark explained that Group Corporate Analytics has “brought business process ownership and data governance together, brought marketing and finance together so that they agree on the numbers, and brought bpc and BI teams together, so everything is brought together under a single authority.” 

Mark’s focus is now on putting the technical solutions in place that will connect the flexibility of the modern analytics tools with the wealth of information available in the SAP environment. He must structure an architecture and allow integrations that will allow data to easily flow back and forth between the two forms of analytics solutions. The goal is to “deploy a big data platform, without making a big upfront investment” in Mark’s words. “I’m using a common data platform and allowing multiple projects to land on that common data platform.” Once this is done, Mark hopes that BAT will be able to “answer the big data questions,” such as how to enable better decision making, how to improve operational efficiency, and how to get a 360-degree view of the customer.

“I will continue to try to drive all analytics to this data platform, and we’re working through the offerings of a number of SAP partners to try to create this physical link between my SAP traditional BI world and my non-SAP analytics world,” Mark said. “Which, hopefully, will be my presentation next year.”

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