Analytics By Design 2018

The “Executive” Summary

In May 2018, Analytics by Design (ABD) welcomed over 350 industry practitioners, business leaders and scholars at the Art Gallery of Ontario for its inaugural conference. The one-day event focused on the impacts emerging technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), big data, blockchain and internet of things (IoT) would have on businesses, government and society at large.


Stephen Piron (Dessa) showcasing use cases for AI his firm has built.

Designing AI for the Enterprise with Stephen Piron

Stephen Piron kicked-off the conference with a thoughtful discussion around the challenges of designing AI for enterprise. Piron demonstrated the common refrain of “analytics challenges being managerial” at implementation stages when discussing stories of use cases Dessa has tackled in the past. To set up the proper infrastructure for ML and AI, he said that AI firms will need to be effective social engineers, capable of building sponsors across many teams in large organizations to succeed.

Lovell Hodge, Vice President at TD

The State of AI with Lovell Hodge

Lovell Hodge, Vice President at TD, brought the audience back to where AI started, outlining the key findings throughout the discovery and research journey of AI and discussed where we are heading as humans. Hodge believes that AI is a multi-disciplinary field with the goal of mimicking intelligent human properties such as reasoning, adaptation and learning. He discussed many popular conversational AI platforms (Siri and Google Home) which are becoming more mature and changing the human-machine interface. Missed out? Catch the full talk here:

Panel 1: The Analytics Development Life Cycle
Our first panel shared their different experiences of leading an organization’s analytics journey. All panelists mentioned the challenge of dirty data and had a lively chat on how and when to use visualization effectively in an analytics process.

Sami Ahmed (Bank of Montreal), Dan Zikovitz (GE Healthcare), Eric Bogart (Acosta), Mike Branch (Geotab)
Wei Ke (Simon Kucher & Partners), Brain Keng (Rubikloud), Ozge Yeloglu (Microsoft), Pavel Abdur Rahman (IBM)

Panel 2: Breaking Barriers & Unleashing the Power of Analytics
Panel 2 took a deep dive into analytics strategies and platforms, weighing in on how to structure analytics teams in big firms and small start-ups. As the industry matures, the panel spoke to the emerging trends around user interaction with data and analytics tooling and the speed at which the field was becoming more accessible. Yeloglu said that even the simplest applications of AI are optimizing the way we work and are in fact having a big impact on our society. She is excited about AI for Good, specifically empowering socially-disadvantaged individuals (i.e. applications for AI for the visually impaired). Missed out? Catch the full talk here:

Gary Schwartz, Author, President at the Canadian Lenders Association and CEO of Pegasus Fintech

Keynote 4: Our Digital Twins & the Trustless Economy with Gary Schwartz
Gary Schwartz opened the afternoon with some refreshing ideas around blockchain technology, illustrating its potential impact on our notions of identity. Schwartz captured the audience’s’ attention while discussing heady ideas around how society trades in trust. He suggests that as our digital footprints via social networks continue to expand, it becomes more and more challenging to maintain sovereignty over our identities and points to the latest developments at Facebook and more as key to the current zeitgeist. Schwartz identifies blockchain technology as being a pivotal innovation that is poised to redefine this whole conversation.

Douglas Heintzman (The Burnie Group), delivering a macro-level perspective to tech

Keynote 4: Living in an Age of Disruption with Douglas Heintzman
Our 4th keynote speaker, Heintzman inspired the audience with the possibilities that the digital age has to offer but from a macro-level. As the final keynote, Heintzman provided a cool hype-free counter perspective to technology as something on the periphery of larger societal changes. He expanded the scope of the day and reminded the audience of the larger scale impacts outside of business. Heintzman challenged today’s leaders to think through the economic, political and societal implications of automation, artificial intelligence and globalization and spoke passionately about the potential of Toronto specifically to succeed in the face of all the emerging technologies covered throughout the day.

Lindsay Ellerby (Normative), Joseph DosSantos (TD), Parinaz Sobhani (Georgian Partners) and Mark Wagner (Scotiabank)

Panel 3: Governance, Regulation and Growth in the Digital Age
Our third panel spoke to the ethical implications and regulations of the digital age. With an enormous amount of data at our disposal, it is important to protect customer’s information — especially at the banks. Instead of viewing governance and regulations as the enemy of innovation, DosSantos expressed that the right level of governance would in fact allow developers to access data faster and more effectively.

Panel 4: The Convergence of Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Robotic Process Automation and Internet of Things
Jenny Hui (Element AI), Simon Smith (BenchSci), Alex Mohelsky (EY) and Tom Emrich (Super Ventures) brought their expertise in AI, Healthcare, Technology and Augmented Reality to discuss the converging trends in these technologies, such as robotics, IoT and AR. This convergence is paving the way for more exciting, sustainable analytical solutions, but it is equally important to balance realistic expectations and creativity when building the next novel application. All panelists agreed that many companies have a fear of missing out when it comes to technology.

Adam Lemmon (Blockscale Solutions), Louisa Bai (Deloitte), Genia Mikhalchenko (TMX Group), Ameer Rosic (Blockgeeks) and Douglas Heintzman (The Burnie Group)

Panel 5: Blockchain: Hype vs. Reality
For our final panel we welcomed back our afternoon keynotes and a host of other blockchain practitioners to discuss the applications of the technology beyond crypto currencies. Much of the panel was focused on a single topic of discussion: “what the killer app of blockchain” would be — collectively the panelists engaged in a fiery discussion bouncing a host of ideas back and forth. They covered: empowering citizens through sovereign identity, increasing operational efficiencies in large institutions, bitcoin, digital right sharing and more. Despite the exhaustive list, they all believed the best has yet to come.

Professor Stephen Thomas (Queen’s University) and Mark Wagner (Scotiabank)

Fireside Chat — Building Up the Next Generation of Analytics Talent
We ended the day with Mark Wagner (Scotiabank) and Professor Stephen Thomas (Queen’s University) discussing the skills — both technical and managerial — that the next generation of analytics talent would need to succeed. Wagner highlighted organizational differences across industries and emphasized the importance of being bold and courageous in recruiting to retain top talent.

Workshops and Case Competition. In conjunction with a full-day of panels and keynotes, the ABD conference hosted two technical workshops in partnership with We Could Data and SAS, and a case competition where over 30 teams of 150 contestants were given a real transactional dataset by Rubikloud to solve a real business problem in the retail domain.

It was really difficult to cram a full day’s worth of discussion into a single article without short changing all of the incredible discussion! The whole ABD team is looking forward to 2019 and diving deeper into the stories, strategies and technologies of the future and we hope you’ll join us as we do so :)

Stay up to date with us on our website: https://abdtoronto.com/


Thanks to our strategic partner, Smith School of Business (Queen’s University) as well as our event sponsors TD, Scotiabank, LoyaltyOne, Dunin-Deshpande Queens Innovation Centre, Palomino, SAS, and our community partners, Rubikloud, We Cloud Data, ICF Olson, ThinkWire and Smith Women in Analytics.