Rhoddy Swire on the evolution of data

Pantheon Ventures founder takes role with data innovator Azquo

Rhoddy Swire, the new Chairman of data management software firm Azquo, has form and pedigree: he has form when it comes to building and running a large company and he has pedigree in that he is a Swire (of The Swire Group family).

He built Pantheon Ventures, an institutional private equity fund of funds, originally part of GT Management, into an independent international company with offices in Europe, Asia and North America.

He remains the “Cultural Czar” of Pantheon, but insists the company is very much run in a “collegiate style”. His self-deprecation (“If someone asks why Pantheon has worked, the answer is “well I have always employed people who are cleverer than me”) belies a formidable corporate reputation which has led the Azquo founder to offer him the Chairman position of the relatively young company.

Putting on his Azquo hat, Swire reflects on the critical importance of data management, mining and analysis.

“I think, as business – especially marketing – becomes more sophisticated, there will be more sophisticated responses. Anyone who wants to succeed in business has to know more about their client’s requirements and their expectations.”

Azquo, he says, is trying to break down the barrier between IT departments and corporate management, building trusted applications and a system that can help management to rapidly get the data they need.

At its simplest, Azquo is a data management system that enables users to use the language of Excel and run both calculations and analytics on vast amounts data held in its proprietary system and then return it to a spreadsheet. The secret here is that the data is traceable, auditable and remains connected to its’ source. It takes Excel into the 21st Century and is extremely fast.

One very obvious application is managing and crunching sales data from retail companies, particularly multi channel ones. Azquo clients may want to know who is buying, when and why; which marketing campaigns buyers react to best, what their lifetime value may be and what their repeat purchasing pattern is likely to be. Azquo is also very well suited to Financial Performance planning & analytics.

Ultimately, Azquo is a facilitator, Swire says. Rather than co-opting customers to sign up on an on-going license basis, the company is confident that its clients will appreciate the alternative applications of its system.

“We’re actually speeding up the process by which management can get the information, enabling it to make better decisions. We are an integral part of the evolution of data management.”

Data is a commodity like any other and may well be “the new gold or oil”, so long as management knows its objectives, and the uses to put the data to. In a sense, says Swire, “management teaches us how they want to work; we are reacting to that and trying to produce applications to allow them to analyse the data to satisfy their objective. And if they don’t ask for the right thing they won’t get it.”

What of companies that are quite old in terms of management, in terms of how they’re managed, companies that have a lot of data, but don’t even know what use they can put it to?

“I think that the image of a company can often belie what’s really happening inside it and the application of technology beneath that veneer.

“Any company that is surviving and prospering in today’s age is in all likelihood very much more sophisticated than its founders and ancestors. The competition is much greater, the regulations tighter and global pressures considerable.

“The Swire Group is a good case in point. My family is very old-fashioned on the surface, but the company is run at a highly advanced technological level.”

There is an excellent reason why Azquo has picked Swire as a Chairman, rather than a data analyst with tech credentials. Ultimately, running a business, even a high tech one, is about interpersonal relationships and client acquisition.

Swire is extremely personable, an accomplished conversationalist and, I expect, a skilled consensus builder. Beneath the highly engaging facade is a consummate corporate negotiator whose savvy and experience transcend any specialist high tech skills and will guarantee Azquo’s place at the table of significant data planning and analytics solution providers.