Cobena: A Whole Brained Approach to Data Sciences
“Innovate or fall behind”— this phrase has become the hallmark of the modern business world.
In an increasingly competitive business landscape, companies that are able to take the highest risks, close the biggest operations gaps, and leverage the newest trends are the ones that experience sustained success. To achieve this, however, firms are constantly driven by two seemingly diverging viewpoints. On one hand, some businesses tend to direct their attention more toward accountability, objectivity, and rationality through their data-driven business intelligence proficiencies. On the other, there are enterprises whose game plans weigh heavily on the creative side of the business. This dichotomous approach to business has resulted in a see-saw of left-brain, right-brain thinking. While a left-brained business ideology focuses more on the logical and analytical aspects, right-brained outlook concentrates more on building creative strategies. Aiming to put businesses on an even keel, Philippines-based business intelligence firm, Cobena embraces a whole-brained approach to business thinking. Striking a balance between left-and right-brained thinking maximizes the business value and generates better outcomes—“This perspective is the cornerstone of our unique business intelligence (BI) offering,” says Francis del Val, president and CEO of Cobena, previously Philippine CEO from Big Pharma and a global executive for 15 years before setting up Cobena. Steering ahead with this innovative approach, Cobena is ushering a new horizon in the BI landscape: a whole brained approach to data sciences.
Enhancing business intelligence through the creation of highly engaging dashboards has been core to cobena’s success
Cobena, an anagram for beacon, employs the pioneering whole-brained BI methodology to fulfill its namesake role: shedding light on data. The company first leverages mathematical modeling—a left-brained activity—to glean meaningful insights, which adds to its clients’ competitiveness. Utilizing those insights, Cobena generates breakthrough ideas through a series of ideation sessions and workshops together with their clients—which are essentially right-brained activities—to bring about innovative changes in clients’ products, services, and culture. “All our work ends up with co-creation efforts with our clients. We do not present the recommendations, we breathe life into it through sessions that engage their decision makers and teams in the solutions and we all brainstorm together on the applications to solve their biggest problems and address the most important opportunities. In a nutshell, while we start with data, our goal is always innovation,” remarks del Val.
The robustness of Cobena’s BI approach has been particularly helpful for companies in the Philippines where data science is still in its infancy.
We work with clients throughout their business continuum: translating their data into information, information into insights, and the insights into innovation
“While C-suite executives have heard about BI solutions, they don’t know where to start. Many are even apprehensive about the outcomes that BI can deliver,” mentions John Paul Vergara, PhD, co-founder and chief analytics officer of Cobena. (Vergara is a Math and Computer Sciences professor these past 30 years in Ateneo, one of the Philippines’ premier universities and has a PhD in Computer Sciences from Virgina Tech University, USA). Furthermore, numerous organizations have their wealth of business information in siloed data warehouses that do not communicate with each other. Thus, making a well-rounded business decision becomes complicated and, often, a frustrating process. Cobena brings an end to this problem by putting data science at the center of organizational capability building. “We work with clients throughout their business continuum: translating their data into information, information into insights, and the insights into innovation,” explains Vergara. The leading-edge BI firm completes each of their client engagements with a co-creation workshop where they share the results of the analysis with different departments of the organization: from the C-suite to the middle managers all through to front-liners. “Translating those analyses into actionable decisions is where our real magic lies,” Vergara adds. As a result of this process, the companies walk away with more conviction in data science, enabling them to become smarter with their data.
Believing in the Power of Data
At the forefront of Cobena’s BI solutions is its flagship product, Gateway—a location analytics platform for geospatial analytics. Del Val remarks that companies can subscribe to the Gateway platform and gain access to over 250 data layers on socio-economic attributes of different areas in the Philippines—from regional to the district level; Gateway also has a collection of 150,000 curated points of interest mapped out to its specific longitude and latitude. Points of interest are potential or actual sources of demand or supply: very important indicators of what could make a business successful. Gateway has built-in machine learning algorithms to help users assess a location’s viability. In the past 28 months, Cobena has handled more than 30 different projects—leveraging geospatial analytics—to help companies rank cities and municipalities in the Philippines, or identify specific sites where they should be setting up their next branch or real estate development project. Another remarkable product that Cobena brings to the table is PicNPin, a mobile application that allows companies to collect data about specific points of interest for their business. With PicNPin, users can take a photo of a particular location and fill up a form, enabling firms to collect the necessary information. The photograph, form, and location coordinates (collectively called a pin) are sent to a cloud-based database. The organization can then access and monitor all the collected pins from a command center. To help clients be more informed about their brand health and consumer engagement, Cobena offers digital audit and analytics—a suite of services focused on reviewing a company’s digital assets by deploying social listening, net sentiment analysis and other proprietary Cobena developed algorithms. Coupled with that, Cobena also provides comprehensive dashboard development services for easy, real-time monitoring of a company’s brand engagement, thereby eliminating repetitive and manual processes involved in KPI measurement.
Apart from the cutting-edge BI products, Cobena is also invested in data science training through a two-day workshop called Plots and Trends, wherein data analysts receive training on both data science and data visualization. Participants are closely guided by experts and gain real, hands-on experience with some of the top business intelligence tools like Qlik Sense, Tableau, and Power BI. Additionally, Cobena conducts co-creation workshops with its clients to create actionable plans based on the insights derived. “We hold workshops every month on brand strategy development and business transformation. Our average rating for our workshops is 4.75/5. These top marks are testimony that our whole brained approach to data science works. Clients feel empowered to innovate after seeing the insights from their data” mentions del Val.
When it comes to the implementation of BI solutions, Cobena employs a four-phased approach, I-Quad— an abbreviation for Investigate, Intuit, Invent, and Institutionalize—to remediate every business problem. Investigate encompasses enquiring about the issues the client is trying to address and the data they have with them. Intuit refers to seeing and understanding insights. Invent involves working together to innovate client’s products, services, processes. Finally, Institutionalize stands for bringing innovative ideas to life. “The I-Quad process is a source of competitive advantage for our clients,” says Vergara. The approach leads Cobena to comprehend the root cause of a client’s issues and ensures that its solutions target those and not the superficial symptoms. When properly addressed, this could result in a more far-reaching and positive impact.
Innovation across All Endeavors
One of the biggest reasons behind the wide adoption of Cobena’s BI solutions is its proactive engagement with clients to understand and cater to their specific needs. Del Val recounts Cobena’s contribution to the accelerating business growth for a leading fast-food chain in the Philippines. To carve out better opportunities through the client’s food menu, Cobena began with an innovation workshop, followed by a strategy workshop to drive sales growth across the stores of the fast-food chain. This led Cobena to carry out a tailored Gateway project to determine specific sites where the client should expand their store footprint. Finally, Cobena also conducted digital audit and analytics focusing on one of their underperforming regions. With Cobena’s assistance, the client was able to report a 14 percent increase in their annual sales in 2017.
Del Val and Vergara strongly believe that Cobena’s distinctive whole-brained BI model is the secret behind the company’s rapid growth. “Our approach, combined with our data science training, strategy and innovation workshops, and management consulting services are the factors that have made us a comprehensive business intelligence solution provider,” Vergara points out. As a roadmap for the future, Cobena now intends to utilize its Manila and Singapore data science hubs to broaden its business horizon and offer BI services in the U.S., Europe, the Middle East, and Australasia. Concurrently, Cobena is also working on platforms that leverage satellite technology to improve geospatial analytics. “In the coming years, we are looking to launch a delivery service platform with built-in machine learning capabilities that improve service delivery tracking and lead time, thereby bringing down supply chain costs,” concludes del Val.