- Finance expert, Hema Patel, suggests finance professionals with a head for numbers are at a huge advantage in today’s business environment
- In a data-driven world, Hema believes numbers should be at the heart of every business decision
- Data analysis and critical interpretation of its applications enable better informed business decisions
In the digital era, data is the buzzword du jour. Companies are increasingly recognising its importance as a critical tool for innovation. Used well, data enables a deep understanding of customers and their behaviours, which can then help to drive business growth and add value.
According to Hema Patel, General Manager of New Zealand streaming service Lightbox and finance expert, as a result of this data revolution, finance professionals who have a natural acumen for numbers can be at an advantage in today's business environment.
"I feel very lucky that I have a head for numbers and a financial brain. I bring both of those two strengths together in a data-driven world, which means I can use data to power my business-related decisions. It has been absolutely instrumental in taking me to where I am in my career today," Patel says.
At university, Patel wasn't sure of her future career path, but finance was her area of interest. Following this interest led her to become a Chartered Accountant; and from there, she has worked across a variety of finance and commercial roles to the CEO-level position she holds at Lightbox today. Much of her career has been spent working in exciting start-ups and media companies, including Sony Pictures in Hollywood.
"One of the things about media and television is that it is a very seductive industry. So, once you are in, it is really hard to leave," she says.
Patel says her ability to interpret data has played a critical role in taking her career to the next level. "When you get to a more senior level, commercial acumen is something that is really valued and looked for," she says. "Someone that has not necessarily had a financial or commercial background can find that work really difficult – understanding how to interpret data and what a statistic means and asking the right questions to understand the numbers better."
The power of data for business
However, Patel cautions that in an information-driven era, where we have massive volumes of data at our fingertips, the ability to see the bigger picture and decipher where data can have the most value-accretive impact is critical.
"Numbers - I have learned throughout my career - are at the heart of every business decision."
"The skill of understanding, analysing and interpreting data is to then go, 'Well what's the application? What is it going to drive from a business decision standpoint?' Data can be interpreted to make decisions, which are not necessarily the right decisions if we have not considered the whole puzzle," she says.
By the numbers
Patel also points to the impact that data has had on modern marketing efforts as a case study of the importance of effectively capturing and interpreting business data.
"If I think about the traditional methods of marketing, it was very much 'spray and pray'. So, 'We are going to spend some money, we might do a TV advert, and we are going to hope that there might be someone that buys our product because we advertised it on TV'," Patel says.
"When you live in a data-driven marketing world, we can understand from a click-through whether someone bought something based on an ad that we placed. And so, our ability to understand and analyse the impact of where we should spend our marketing dollars, and how we should market to our customers, is now completely underpinned by data."
"Of course, we can make decisions without data, but using data allows us to make much more informed decisions."
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