Data & Analytics and the value of teamwork

26 January 2024

Characteristic of TriFinance's Pragmatic Advisory & Implementation services is the integration of knowledge building, methodology, and teamwork within an Expert Practice structure

Expert Practices exist for risk, ESG reporting, business process management, ERP, and data & analytics. Each Expert Practice is led by an Expert Practice Leader responsible for initiating projects, team management, and attracting talent to further develop the practice.

In this article, we introduce the Data & Analytics Expert Practice through a brief interview with Project Consultants Evert Augustyns and Arno Hemeleers, along with their Expert Practice Leader, Maarten Lauwaert.

Unplugged with wine, bike, and trumpet.

Maarten Lauwaert is a dedicated father of three. "With three young children, there's always something going on at home!" he says. "In addition, I play the trumpet in a band in my free time and try to maintain my fitness on the bike. I really enjoy being active in nature, ideal for clearing the mind!"

Evert Augustyns finds himself in a similar situation. Outside of work, he spends a lot of free time with his two young children. "I try to stay fit by running and cycling," he says. "But I particularly enjoy good food, preferably a nice BBQ and a glass of wine."

Arno Hemeleers, when not at his desk, gets extra motivated in his free time when he can set himself sporting goals. That's why he swears by outdoor activities such as cycling, running, and walking.

All three of them work closely with many other colleagues in the Data & Analytics team. Learn more about their insights and experiences in this interview. We discuss the importance of data engineering, the value of teamwork, mutual mentoring, and the exchange of knowledge.

The DNA of the D&A-Team

In late 2017, Maarten Lauwaert initiated a team that combined strong Power BI knowledge with expertise in finance and controlling. Early in his career, as a business analyst or project manager, he observed that BI and reporting projects didn't always proceed smoothly.

"There was often a communication gap between business and BI professionals," he says. "Both understood their part of the story very well, but coming together for a successful outcome was not easy."

This led to the idea of establishing a BI team at TriFinance that focuses on both functional and technical BI knowledge. One of the first Project Consultants to join in 2017 was Evert Augustyns.

"I started as a consultant at Transition & Support (T&S) Antwerp 11 years ago," he says. "From the beginning, I was intrigued by automating manual processes through macros or power query, reporting via Excel, Access, and PowerPivot. When I switched to Management Information & Systems (MI&S) in 2017 and hopped on the Power BI train, I quickly realized it was the way to go for me. Both for my personal growth and the significant potential in the market."

From the outset, it was crucial for the Data & Analytics team to register a company's reporting needs. "Once you know which KPIs are relevant," says Maarten Lauwaert, "and how they are calculated and reported, you can translate that into an optimal data model and a technical analytics architecture."

Once you know which KPIs are relevant and how they are calculated and reported, you can translate that into an optimal data model and a technical analytics architecture.

Maarten Lauwaert, Expert Practice Leader Data & Analytics

From a Power BI-team to a Data & Analytics-team

The team quickly delivered its first projects. They regularly organized training sessions on Power BI and began building standardized models that translated their controlling expertise into ready-to-use Power BI dashboards.

Gradually, the team expanded with experienced BI professionals. "We were able to significantly enhance our capabilities in data engineering and data science," says Maarten Lauwaert. "We quickly evolved from a Power BI team into a full-fledged Data & Analytics team."

Customers consider us a full-fledged data partner. This allows us to build long-term relationships, providing support after an implementation, serving as a sparring partner for new reporting inquiries, assisting with the rollout of new technology, or establishing robust governance.

Evert Augustyns, Project Manager, Data & Analytics

A full-fledged data partner.

The more than 20 data & analytics consultants help clients make better decisions based on data every day. They utilize the latest analytics concepts, such as lakehouses and machine learning models, but always start with the business's data needs to enable better decision-making.

"I notice that clients increasingly consider us a full-fledged data partner, giving us the opportunity to build long-term relationships," says Evert. "So, after an initial implementation, we often stay on board for support, but we are also sought after as a sparring partner for new reporting inquiries or the rollout of new technology. In addition to the technical aspect of this setup, I also observe that more and more companies feel the need to establish robust governance, which creates new opportunities for us."

An example of a similar project is Fiberklaar, a major player in the telecom sector. Here, we started by taking over an existing reporting solution in Azure and Power BI. Currently, we are enhancing and structuring this setup in various waves based on priorities: operations, finance, etc. Besides the technical structuring, we have also assisted them in establishing an organizational structure to embrace reporting.

The strength of the team lies in each individual team member. The strength of each team member is the team.

In recent years, the team has experienced significant growth. "My role has evolved from BI consultant to Project Manager," says Evert Augustyns. "It's something I find fulfilling. Leading a team and contributing to the strategy and growth of our team gives me a lot of satisfaction."

For Arno Hemeleers, one of the newest additions to the Data & Analytics team, the team structure is a major advantage. "Even though D&A consists of consultants working on different projects, there's a real sense of teamwork, and it's not every person for themselves," he says.

When I chose TriFinance, I wanted to contribute to 'holistic' projects, from raw data to insights.

Arno Hemeleers, Project Consultant, Data & Analytics

The importance of mentoring, coaching, and personal follow-up.

When asked what attracts him to TriFinance, Arno points to the mentoring, coaching, and personal follow-up, which he considers crucial for someone at the early stages of their career.

"At TriFinance, I found what I needed at the beginning of my career. When you're dropped into the professional field as a junior, it can be overwhelming. Simple questions like 'How is it going with the client?' or in-depth discussions about future perspectives can make a big difference. Here, my ambitions are listened to, and new projects always align with them."

"The project I am currently involved in is a BI implementation at Comfort Energy. Initially, my tasks were more supportive, but soon I gained the confidence to develop ideas for both the backend and Power BI reporting. When I chose TriFinance, I wanted to contribute to 'holistic' projects, from raw data to insights. This is because I enjoy the variety and I have no idea yet in which domain I want to further develop or specialize."

The unique character of the Data & Analytics team.

The data experts can individually point out what makes working in the team so special. For Expert Practice Leader Maarten Lauwaert, it is primarily a combination of strategy and methodology: "In our projects, we always aim to start from the client's business needs," he says. "We then translate those into a robust technical architecture. That's why our team comprises both strong technical and functional profiles. Knowledge sharing and teamwork are core values of our team, and we ensure that everyone is well-supported."

Evert Augustyns emphasizes the benefits of an open structure and the knowledge sharing made possible among diverse team members. "What I find unique in our team is that we approach many projects as a team – data engineers, data analysts, and project managers – enabling continuous learning from each other. Additionally, we have a very open structure, allowing us to share a lot of knowledge with colleagues working on other projects."