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Ollie East discusses technology trends and AWS collaboration

Ollie East is a director in the Baker Tilly Digital team with more than 10 of experience in delivering technology, strategy and analytics programs across multiple industries. Ollie is adept at translating analytical output into actionable business value, utilizing both qualitative and quantitative methodologies to derive insight from data. Prior to joining Baker Tilly, Ollie was a leader in the analytics and cognitive practice at a global accounting, tax and consulting firm.

  1. What led you to work for Baker Tilly’s consulting team?
    I kind of fell into the world of data and analytics. I come from a strategy background, but technology and data quickly merged with strategy due to the importance of being data or technology‑focused. Years ago I found myself doing a project focused on marketing analytics and I discovered this love of mixing the technology, data and analytics with business‑focused outcomes and problems.
  2. What do you enjoy most about working for Baker Tilly Digital?
    Our entrepreneurial spirit. We work across many different industries, with clients doing a variety of projects and implementations with using new technologies. This allows us the creative freedom to use new technologies in these projects. With this freedom, we get to explore what is the challenge, the best way to approach to problem and provide recommendations on what is the best product to solve the challenge. From there we can iterate, develop and implement for the client. One of the other great things about Baker Tilly is that we give our data scientists time each week to work on their own interests and expand their knowledge base. We all have this innate curiosity to advance digital technologies, this time provided lets everyone grow and bring their teachings back to others within the firm, our clients and communities.
  3. Due to the pandemic, what obstacles and/or opportunities are clients seeing?
    The biggest obstacle is the lack of face‑to‑face interaction or engagement with products. From the consumer side, this translates into diminishing opportunities for people to go into a store, look, touch or feel a product. From a business standpoint, the biggest challenge has been how do we assist our clients to move into this new digitally focused way of selling, interacting and understanding their consumers’ behavior.
    If businesses do not have the opportunity to interact in person with their buyers, they have to establish technologies and a digital space for them to interact in and collect customer information. If a business is not digitally advanced or mature, they may struggle with developing a digital space quickly enough, resulting in lost revenue.
    There are huge opportunities in this space. The Baker Tilly Digital team takes the time to learn everything about your business (from what your customers want, to how they want to interact with you), and then explore ways to make your application functional from the backend to the frontend, creating a user experience for customers that encourage them to come back.
  4. What digital strategy and technology trends do you expect to see in 2021?
    It’s never been easier to access advanced data technologies and companies are now seeing, beyond a shadow of a doubt, the impact that understanding their data has on growth. As such I think we have now looped back to companies starting to really focus on managing their data as an asset. While machine learning and AI are important, if you don't have the underlying data with the right granularity over the right time frame - collected, governed and stored in the right way - it will be very hard to accurately deliver machine learning in AI properly.
    Therefore, I think 2021 is going to see customers really focusing on how they institutionalize their data and thinking about how they can build large scale data warehouses. Examining topics such as data compliance, surrounding the collection, governance, transformation and presentation of data distributed equally to a wider pool of actors across the business.
  5. What does the collaboration with AWS mean for Baker Tilly Digital?
    AWS is aligned in many ways to the ethos and culture we have at Baker Tilly Digital around doing the best thing we can to support our clients. This allows our work with them to be collaborative, across a multitude of projects and services than is beyond your standard level engagement with a cloud platform provider. This arrangement with AWS goes beyond your typical reseller type relationship, we view each other as a strategic partner in how we help clients navigate this advancement in digital requirements necessary for your business to succeed.
  6. What opportunities can clients take advantage of with this collaboration?
    As we work hand in hand with AWS, clients have access to not only our own technical (data science and engineering) and strategic talent that we have in digital, but also the technical (data science and engineering) and strategic talent of AWS as well. Between these two powerhouses of knowledge, clients can get assistance on some of the more advanced service offerings or products in beta that are coming to market. The guidance between these two teams better positions the client’s business to really understand and integrate these new technologies into their business in a proper and consistent manner that will provide long-term value.
  7. Describe what the inaugural Deep Racer event can offer for clients and prospects.
    DeepRacer itself is a fantastic initiative. Previously I mentioned machine learning and AI, but I didn’t mentioned how daunting a task it can be for the client to conceptualize how machine learning can work for their business. DeepRacer is designed to show machine learning and AI in a fun, gamified type of way. While it looks like all participants are doing is racing a small car around a track – they are actually watching machine learning and AI in action as the car course corrects and works to reduce its time spent completing the loop around the track. Participants can see how to set up machine learning and AI, understanding how to bring in data, how to manipulate data, how to look at the outcome of their models and tweak them to increase accuracy.
    AWS designed the DeepRacer events so participants can see the outcome right away to train people in the art of machine learning in a very fun and friendly competitive environment. By joining the DeepRacer event, you can interact with Baker Tilly Digital, Amazon, explore machine learning, data science and data strategies that you can put into practice in your business.
  8. Did you take up any hobbies during quarantine? / What do you like to do outside of the office?
    I have a five‑year‑old, three‑year‑old, and one‑year‑old, so they are kind of my hobbies. But, when I do have spare time – I’m nerdy and still need to have a connection to technology. I like to get on my keyboard [computer], and learn about business trends or explore certifications through Amazon or within the industry around ML, cloud and AI to develop and apply to future projects.
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