Students learn from experts how analytics may be used to enhance sales

The Center for Organizational Analytics partnered with the Direct Selling Education Foundation to host the panel discussion.

On March 13, students gathered in LaRose Digital Theatre for the “Using Data Analytics to Drive Sales” panel discussion hosted by the Center for Organizational Analytics and Direct Selling Education Foundation.

The panel featured Bassam Alqassar, vice president of information systems & technology at Princess House, and Yemi Mateola, director of solution delivery & architecture at ACN NA. The panel was moderated by Matthew Jegier ’18, a finance and management double major.

The panelists first discussed how data-driven sales are defined and operated in their respective companies, with both highlighting the growing importance of machine learning. “We look at how we can build information between devices and networks to best understand behavior,” Mateola said.

Alqassar referenced the ability to recognize patterns and prepare for the future with data-driven sales. “It’s not just looking at the data and reporting what happens,” said Alqassar, “but also recognizing patterns to determine what could happen.” 

In regards to social media analytics, Alqassar referred to the data as a mega microphone. “It’s great to collect information, but it’s a double-edged sword because there is information out there that’s not true,” he said.

When asked how the panelists integrate analytics into company culture, Mateola said, “It’s no secret data drives everything nowadays. Culturally, everyone has to find ways to take data more seriously, because using it produces better results and longevity as the business moves forward.”

Princess House’s culture shift to lean more on data models was not simple. “The biggest lesson we learned at Princess House was that people have to first change their mindset of how they think about business,” said Alqassar.

He identified three key aspects of embracing a data-driven culture: spend time analyzing not only what happened, but also what will happen; ensure data quality because without that, data can be misleading; and know your focus as a business, so you can accomplish what you set out to do and not become lost in the analytical process.

The panelists then identified the greatest trends they predict will be of most importance in the next five years. Mateola proposed deep learning as a complement to machine learning and noted the importance of the Internet of Things. Alqassar agreed with Mateola, pointing to machine learning as a promising trend as well. “There is so much information we cannot comprehend,” said Alqassar, “and with computer power we are able to input information, make a correlation and establish a cause and effect.”

Finally, Jeiger asked the panelists to provide advice to students about the skillsets needed to succeed in the industry. Mateola presented two domains: the technical and managerial. While programming knowledge is essential, he said, a firm understanding of micro- and macroeconomic factors and influences and how these result in business outcomes are of equal importance. Alqassar echoed Mateola, urging that hard and soft skills go hand-in-hand when it comes to succeeding in his role. “You could have the greatest idea,” said Alqassar, “but if you don’t know how to present it you will not be able to move forward and deliver your message effectively.”

Mateola and Alqassar also left students with the idea that every company today is a technology company, so it is key to look at the business first and then see how technology can enable the company to deliver the business goal. “There is a clear line of sight between technology introduction and business outcomes,” Mateola said.

As vice president of information systems & technology at Princess House Inc., Alqassar provides leadership for the continued development and management of an innovative, robust, and secure information technology environment throughout the company. Alqassar brings 30 years of experience in all phases of information technology, including infrastructure services, cybersecurity, cloud, data analytics and application development. His forte is the ability to provide strategic alignments between business and technology.

Prior to his tenure at Princess House, Alqassar was the operating vice president of system design and programming at the Robert Allen Group. Alqassar received a graduate certificate in information assurance and cybersecurity from Florida Institute of Technology, a master’s in computer science from the University of Massachusetts and a bachelor’s degree in computer system management from Johnson and Wales University. 

His research papers have been published in the Intelligent Manufacturing Systems Journal and the Journal of Intelligent Manufacturing.

Mateola is an accomplished technology executive, with demonstrable success driving organizational efficiencies and leading business technology platform transformations in alignment with business strategies and outcomes.

He began his technology career in the UK in the mid-80s as a programmer and quickly progressed over the years through project leadership and development consulting into a senior architect/development position in the U.S. He gained architect-level expertise on Microsoft and Java-based platforms and developed hands-on implementation skills in business, application, data, technology and solution architecture domain areas.

Prior to ACN NA, he held senior leadership roles in major U.S. companies, including J.C. Penney, Southwest Airlines and Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. 

Mateola received a bachelor’s degree in computer science from the University of Lagos.