Data, Decisions, and Driving Impact – A sit-down with Con Conlon at REBUILD ‘225 min readReading Time: 4 minutes
At Rebuild ‘22, we saw Industry Leaders take the stage to discuss the state and future of enterprise AI. In the fireside chat ‘AI-Powered Growth Stories’, we had Con Conlon, the CEO and MD of the Merit Group, give us his two cents about Data, AI, and the impact it has had across domains.
Merit Group is a leading Data Solutions provider specializing in harvesting, aggregating, and transforming data. Merit powers digital transformation by harnessing the power of data and code and have an esteemed B2B clientele and multiple success stories.
The Importance of Impactful Data
“We like data because, when done well and used well, it enables good decision making and is impactful. We like data that enables impact,”
– Con Conlon
Con spoke about the Merit group’s work to help construction businesses. In 2012, Merit programmed 450 robots to gather construction data. Tracking construction projects across the UK helped identify critical aspects across the various buildings being constructed – from tiny two-bedroom houses to huge retail complexes. “If you’re a supplier in the construction industry, we can tell you what materials you need to supply to cater to specific requirements, from what type of insulation to use to what roofing options you need to go for. That’s the kind of data that we like. And, you know, if you’re a supplier of materials, that’s hugely impactful in terms of how you sell, where you sell.” he added.
Simply put, when it comes to data aggregation, focusing on the quality of the data as much as the quantity can yield accurate, actionable, and impactful results.
AI across industries
The Merit Group has worked extensively across industries ranging from retail to pharmaceuticals. Con elaborated on how data proved to be helpful for teams within organizations. While the impact of AI and data is felt across multiple industries, here are the key takeaways from the retail, pharma, and petroleum industries.
Retail & E-Commerce
Vue.ai, Blox for the retail industry partnered with Merit Group to harness the rich data available in retail to enable users to make intelligent decisions about what outfits to put on their shelves. The Merit Group deployed 900 robots to collect qualitative and informative data beyond just the basic metrics, which in turn helped determine the products that were in-demand and fast-moving.
“If you saw a military-style overcoat, you know, and on your competitor websites, you saw it was sold out in 14 days. It’s an excellent product to back. The data we collected told you not only that that product sold out quickly, what sizes sold first, what colors were sold first, and of course, all across the categories, which color palettes were moving quickly. Again, impactful data for sales teams and management teams.”
– Con Conlon
Merit undertook a similar process to track data in the pharma industry in the United Kingdom. Their goal was to analyze what drugs were being recommended by the National Health Service to treat different kinds of ailments. It provided sales teams of leading pharmaceutical companies with direction to identify critical areas for improvement and opportunities to push their top-selling treatments. This use of data has helped improve supply chain efficiency in the pharma industry, which has helped save many lives in the UK.
“We track oil and gas prices for a company called Argus Media, and we help them to collect pricing and volume data on hydrocarbons. And that goes into pricing contracts used by oil and gas traders.” Con added. Implementing AI systems can be transformative for an industry as old as Oil and Gas, where accurate and actionable information is essential.
Maritime and Automotive are other industries in which the Merit Group has worked extensively, and data aggregation is a core part of their operations.
But is just the collection of data enough for impact?
Transformation of Data
One common point that every speaker at REBUILD ‘22, Chennai, touched upon is that data, to be used at its full potential, should be transformed into an understandable journey for teams to understand and act on.
“Collecting data is just 30% of the challenge. It’s all about transforming it and making it useful. That’s where the mischief and delight are – when it works well.“
– Con Conlon
“And the work that Blox did, for instance, on e-commerce – the data you would get would just say ‘Dress, 49.99’. You can’t do anything with that. Your tech enabled us to see that it’s a cocktail dress above the knee. Identify that it’s a patterned dress. That’s what is useful.“
– Con Conlon
In a domain like e-commerce, where data sources are vast and diverse, transforming the data to be decipherable and actionable is imperative.
“Among all the data we pull from different sources, some have gaps, and some are duplicative. They’re all using these abbreviated words, but Blox helped us distill that and make it usable. That’s the heart of the matter, really. That’s when it becomes impactful.”
– Con Conlon
Data-backed decision-making leads to better results, and AI enables that. But, that leads to the question: Can AI replace humans in making these decisions?
One of the key takeaways from everything that Con spoke about is the importance of human intelligence augmented by Artificial Intelligence. Data, when cluttered and unstructured, is ugly. It takes human intelligence to transform it into something impactful.
Our 3 takeaways from Con Conlon’s insightful discussion at REBUILD ‘22 Chennai are:
- Data needs to be impactful for it to yield actionable results.
- Collecting data is just 30% of the job. It needs to be transformed into an understandable journey to be impactful.
- The true potential of data can be materialized only when Artificial Intelligence augments Human Intelligence.
With REBUILD, we at Blox.ai aim to lead the charge to make the world AI-native through experiential conferences by building a community of thought leaders. Watch out for announcements for the upcoming editions, and join us in leading the AI-native movement!