Data Biz: Q & A with John Tardy

By: Sharon Mattei

John Tardy is a principal consultant at Starr & Associates and leads the Business Intelligence and Data Analytics practice area.  He has a BS in Electrical Engineering and an MS in Biomedical Engineering from Rutgers University and an MBA in Management of Technology from Georgia Tech.  He has worked with start-ups and served in senior leadership roles with some of the most recognized brands in the country.  He pairs a depth of technical expertise with business savvy to deliver practical and impactful solutions for his clients.

Q:  Data and business analytics is a hot area attracting huge investments and many players.  How does Starr & Associates fit in?

You’re right, it is a busy space.  There are some companies that focus on specific tools or techniques, and major players that solve enterprise-level challenges.  We are a boutique consulting firm.  Our typical customer has been someone in a business operations role that has a specific business challenge and data that they feel could add value in addressing it.  We have done work in areas such as marketing, supply chain, manufacturing, and field services, just to name a few.  There may be enterprise infrastructure in place, but there is work needed to realize the value for our client.  Some people call this the “last mile” in data analytics.  There may already be many data analysts employed by our client, but they are focused on solving other problems or have more of an enterprise-level role.  There is still huge ROI potential for these departmental functions, they just need a partner to help unlock it.

Q:  What does it take to deliver results for the clients you described?

First it takes focused attention, and conflicting demands can cause this to be in short supply within the enterprise.  It’s one of the benefits of a consulting project engagement structure.  The resources are allocated and focused on solving a specific problem.

It also takes agility and the ability to apply a broad set of approaches to deliver practical and efficient solutions.  I often talk about our end to end analytics capabilities.  Everyone likes to talk about data science and predictive algorithms.  Definitely, advanced analytics can create huge value when applied to the right problem, but they are not the answer all the time.  Sometimes a dashboard that provides visibility into their business is what they need most.  In either case, that final deliverable depends on preparing the data to meet the need and this can be a large part of the effort.

Beyond the technical, we strive to be easy to engage and work with. Part of that is understanding business and relating to the challenges of our client.  I don’t consider us to be a technical shop.  We use a technology toolkit, but our focus is on business solutions.

Q:  Understood, but if there is so much competition in this space, how do the qualities you mentioned differentiate your team from the others.

Well, first it’s the team itself.  I’m lucky to work with a great group that not only has the expertise required, but they work well together.  That is part of our culture.  We do a lot to coordinate a team that fits the assignment and draw on the strengths of those individuals, but regardless of who is assigned, we will collaborate and draw on areas of expertise anywhere within our company.  It’s one of the advantages of being small enough that we have personal experience to know where those capabilities are and no barriers to leverage them.  When you take all of the factors we have discussed here, it turns out that it is not easy to recreate.

Q:  I know your services are in high demand, but what do you do with your time outside of work?

I am a big believer in continual learning.  Right now, I am working toward my private pilot license.  It has been a dream of mine for a long time and an amazing experience.  It has been both challenging and inspirational.  I am very fortunate to have found a community in the Yellow Jacket Flying Club from Georgia Tech.  They have really helped make this all possible and are a great support network.  I’ve passed the written examination, have flown solo flights, and look forward to achieving the private pilot license (PPL) in 2020.  They say that the PPL is a “license to learn” and I look forward to it being part of a continued journey.