Here at Black Swan, we do a whole heap of things really well. Just check out the other blog posts and you’ll get a feel for the breadth of things we do, and think of doing. And even think about thinking about. We have data scientists modelling, UX & UI specialists meddling (want to know the difference between UX & UI? Just click here), econometricians doing miniconometrics, and coders eating lots of pizza (in a Hungarian Hackathon).

What comes out of this seemingly unconnected world of deep thought and stuffed crusts are insights that deliver big, tangible outcomes for our clients. How does this happen? Three main reasons. Firstly, it’s all about the people. Read Rosie’s blog on Man vs Machine, where she expounds on the principle of enabling your people to be the best they can be, and structurally, putting people together based on outcomes rather than commonality. Focus, perhaps uncomfortably, on what the client wants and work back. Put the right people in the right circumstances and magical things can happen.

Secondly, passion. It might not be safe to use language like this (HR, is that OK?) in this context, but people with passion perform. If you read Ash McAllum’s blog, Code, it describes his road to coding nirvana, that it’s hard, and requires dedication. But having reached his initial target, he’s focussed on reaching the next, and the next. Passion. Sprinkled liberally over every Black Swan project.

Lastly, agility. This is a bit of an overused word these days. For some it means some very well stretched hamstrings, but for us it means giving people the freedom to use the best tools for the job, when they need them. Need a MongoDB database to test an idea on data matching? Sure. Need to spin-up a LAMP stack for performance testing or a SQL database for data blending. We’ll have that in the morning! Now do this across 4x continents involving 240x people across 6x time zones and hopefully you’ll realise the scale of the challenge. Yet we manage it.

Since the beginning of Black Swan we have designed our people, processes and technology to be agile and Agile. We focus on speed and flexibility. We are not encumbered with stacks and racks of internal infrastructure, but rather utilise the latest in cloud services, specifically SaaS and PaaS technologies as standard tools in our kit. We do also utilise our own equipment, in the hybrid sense. Some stuff, for now, needs the personal touch that only we can provide.

We also know how to look after our data. We utilise high grade encryption, complex network layered defences, privileged access management, whitelisting, SSH-only connections using public / private key infrastructure management. But we do it intelligently, putting the right controls in the right places, that allows for agility but not at the expense of security. And, back to the first point, we wrap this up by working with our people. They know what ‘good’ and ‘bad’ looks like. And we have the eagle-eyed Rosie & Di – our people department –  to keep their cygnets sharp.

Many companies with a long legacy and infrastructure to care for, and processes to follow, could not hope to be as fleet of foot & feather as we at Black Swan are. And we’re determined to keep it that way, whilst keeping those bits & bytes safely wrapped up.

Gavin started out helping researchers do innovative things with data. Nearly 30 years later, he’s helping organisations do the same thing, having spent the intervening period managing IT teams and technologies for SME’s and PLC’s, most recently as CIO for marketing communication group, Creston plc.