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Eugene Ras: Data Hype is Kryptonite for Data and Analytics Leaders

Eugene Ras, Head of Data and Analytics at Heineken Beverages explains why he thinks hype around data and analytics can become Kryptonite for data and analytics leaders  

This week’s interview with our Global Top 100 Innovators in Data and Analytics features Eugene Ras, Head of Data and Analytics at Heineken Beverages.

Before taking the data and analytics reins at Heineken, Ras was the Head of Data and Analytics at South African brewing and beverage firm Distell. 


C: What are you most passionate about when it comes to data and analytics? What do you think is too often overlooked or misunderstood? 

ER: Unfortunately, the hype created around data has become our Kryptonite! Often, we are not able to deliver on the promises we make, with some recent studies indicating that close to 80% of data projects fail. 

I am still passionate about the potential data has to transform a business. I always tell my team that we need to work ourselves out of a job – that the use of data should become second nature to the business users, and it should be their first port of call when making decisions. 

Therein lies another fallacy about data-driven decision-making – that it completely discounts experience and intuition. This is a common misunderstanding. I am a big proponent of informed intuition, where data is used to either confirm or challenge your intuition. This approach always leads to better decision-making. I am also very passionate about driving data literacy with non-technical employees. 

Utilizing data as a tool within your tactical and strategic arsenal should not only be limited to those who have a knack for writing code. Cultivating a better understanding of how data can be used to make your work life easier is something I place a lot of emphasis on.

C: What do you think are some of the biggest challenges facing data and analytics leaders today? And how do you think they can be overcome?  

ER: For the last couple of years, all organizations have been competing for a limited supply of data talent. As data and analytics leaders, we must change the way we recruit new talent into our organizations. 

We will have to be a lot more flexible in talent management which will be hedged on a strategy-driven, differentiated approach. This at the very least means that new talent should be recruited with the end in mind. A focus should be on what business requirements are, and only then match that with the human and technical skills needed to fulfill those requirements. 

Added to that, strategies such as outsourcing, offshoring, and retraining talent will become more important. Tech talent is also more likely to join organizations based on the work they will be doing. A proper career path will become critical allowing talent to build depth in multiple areas throughout their career.  

Finally, as AI continues to automate problem-solving, our focus should shift to talent that can guide AI technologies toward business results.

C: In your experience, what does it take to be a successful leader in the data and analytics space? What characteristics or skills should aspiring data leaders focus on cultivating?  

ER: There is no simple answer to this. In my view, a successful leader in the data and analytics space is someone who can harmonize a combination of technical expertise, strategic thinking, business acumen, and very strong interpersonal skills. 

In particular aspiring data leaders should not only develop technical proficiency but also business understanding, communication skills, an ethical mindset, problem-solving, and analytical thinking. It also requires the ability to exhibit resilience and perseverance to achieve the functional goals set by the organization.

Download the full Corinium Top 100 Global Innovators in Data and Analytics 2023 report, here