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CIO50 2021 #22: Richard Wyke, Figured

  • Name Richard Wyke
  • Title Chief Product Officer
  • Company Figured
  • Commenced role 2015
  • Reporting Line CEO
  • Member of the Executive Team Yes
  • Technology Function 35 staff, eight direct reports
  • Figured chief product officer Richard Wyke says this year his team delivered Figured Insights, the world's first real-time financial insights and predictive modelling tool for the agricultural sector.

    “This innovation enables our enterprise customers, including banks, industry bodies, government and policy-setting agencies, to do real-time analysis across the financial and production data stored against the 18,000 farms on Figured (about 50% of New Zealand). The Insights platform is a powerful engine that can crunch billions of data points to give instant access to meaningful insights for our customers, enabling them to help their customers and anticipate problems and opportunities,” he says.

    “It’s a tough time for agriculture both in New Zealand and globally, with labour shortages, volatile feed and input prices, and environmental changes testing the financial sustainability of farmers. This is compounded by the fact that it’s exceptionally difficult to access timely and accurate data on these businesses, which is where Figured Insights can provide huge value.”

    Tool specifically for agricultural sector

    Figured Insights is tailored to the agricultural sector and replaces DIY or generic business intelligence solutions, with controls, filters and reports that are native to farming. Beyond the technology, Wyke says the real innovation is that it enables a connected ecosystem of farmers, accountants, consultants, bankers, to collaborate in a vertically integrated platform where information can be explored from a macro nation-wide level down to an individual farm level.

    This means that a customer, such as a bank, could ask a question such as, ‘If farms in New Zealand need to reduce livestock on their farms to combat climate change, what does that mean for their future financial sustainability?’. The platform can model the impact in seconds, based on highly accurate, curated real time data. They can then segment that model by ownership structure, region, or farming types or other relevant segments to tailor their support approach.

    “This platform is unique because traditionally any type of data analysis in agriculture has been paralysed by siloed, poor quality information that is difficult and expensive to collect. This has meant that benchmarks and commentary on the financial performance of farming is backwards-looking and usually 12-18 months out of date when published,” Wyke says.

    “With our new platform, we’ve moved from a manual, error-prone task, to real-time, consistent, curated data. Analysis work which took three months previously can now be modelled instantly with real-time data across 18,000 farms.”

    Short and long term planning

    Wyke says the Figured has a clear technology strategy that matches its approach to planning – either for the very short term or the very long term.

    “We believe more traditional timelines of having a 18-24 month plan is the worst of both worlds — too far away to meaningfully plan in detail but not far enough away to make any meaningful impact. The analogy we like to talk about is sailing across the Atlantic, you only need to worry about sailing the boat in the immediate future and the final destination you want to end in. It's a waste of energy trying to plan exactly where you’ll be and how you’ll be sailing next week,” he says.

    This planning cycle is supported by a natively cloud, fully agile development environment, with specific team principles around developer experience to reduce friction in the process.

    “We put a lot more energy into the principles, leadership decision making frameworks, and the culture and environment that the team operates in, than we do in the mechanics of how the team works through processes, policy or hierarchy. And, through this approach, the delivery of complex long term strategies can absolutely coexist with agile ways of working,” Wyke says.

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