Speech: Academy of Management (AoM) Specialised Conference ‘Big Data & Managing in a Digital Economy,’ 19 April 2018

Opening address

Good morning to you all, and a very warm welcome to Surrey!

It’s a great honour for us to host this landmark conference on ‘Big Data and Managing in a Digital Economy’, the Academy of Management’s first event in the UK and Europe.

It is often said that the US and the UK are ‘two nations separated by a common language’. However, when it comes to research into the challenges of the Digital Economy, we all speak the same language. Management has a crucial role to play in our fast-changing world, where businesses and organisations need to be agile, responsive, and forward-thinking. I therefore applaud the Academy and all of you for this timely conference, to share ideas and create new links and collaborations.

Your theme, ‘Big Data and Managing in a Digital Economy,’ looks to the implications of technology on our lives and organisations. Namely, how do we make sense of the ever-growing amount of data, to aid our decision making?

The journey from formless data, to coherent information, to relevant and focused strategy, is a long and uncertain one. This is why many corporations nowadays invest in data analytics tools, including AI.  The implications could be huge. According to Gartner report, by 2020, 85% of customer interactions will be managed by machines.

The Big Data phenomenon is multifaceted and complex – but, here at the University of Surrey, we are more than a match for it.  We are an entrepreneurial and innovative place, and our researchers excel at truly impactful innovation that transforms industries. Today’s cutting-edge research in digital technologies and data science is led by our Centre for the Digital Economy, 5G Innovation Centre, and Veterinary School. I hope you will have a chance during your stay, to visit some of these centres.

I am delighted to see so many leading researchers and scholars participating in this conference, which is a unique and defining opportunity to help shape the future of data science in management.

Your programme is extremely interesting, and I note the intriguing topics of the three keynote speakers, ranging from “entrepreneurs to data science managers to pirates, and from coffee shops to dark rooms of data thefts”.  I wish I had the time to join you, and dig deeper into all those areas!

As the recent issue with Facebook and Cambridge Analytics highlights for us so dramatically, data analytics is a mixed blessing. It is a timely reminder that there is a human ethics dimension to any new technology or tool, which has been the conscience of human progress and civilisation for hundreds of years. We forget this at our peril.

I know that you are poised and ready to tackle this grand challenge, and to develop new and powerful ways to harness the power of big data and AI to underpin future business innovation, and shape a better future for our world.

To conclude, I wish you a very stimulating and fruitful conference, and enjoyment of all the University and the town of Guildford have to offer here.

Thank you.

Now it gives me great pleasure to introduce today’s Keynote Speaker, Mr Paul Mang. Paul served as Global Chief Executive Officer of Analytics at Aon plc, and has particular expertise in finding new insights from enormous data resources.