Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Business & Appointments - - FRONT PAGE -

FIRSTS seem to come easy to Lor­raine But­ler, the straight-talk­ing manag­ing di­rec­tor of CPM Ire­land, one of the coun­try’s lead­ers in out­sourced sales and mar­ket­ing ser­vices where key cus­tomers in­clude the likes of GSK, Har­vey Nor­man and Eir. She was the only woman out of 13 on Eir’s busi­ness board be­fore be­com­ing the first woman manag­ing di­rec­tor at CPM Ire­land. And now she is over­see­ing an­other first. CPM Ire­land is bring­ing data so­lu­tions in the form of pre­dic­tive an­a­lyt­ics to its client firms for the first time and has in­vested €1m a year over each of the past three years in the de­vel­op­ment of its data-sci­ence ca­pa­bil­i­ties.

“Tech­nol­ogy is be­com­ing more and more so­phis­ti­cated and ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence [AI] is now be­ing built into sys­tems.

“We are go­ing to launch pre­dic­tive an­a­lyt­ics to the Ir­ish mar­ket and we’ll be the first to do it in our in­dus­try.

“You have to have a dif­fer­en­tia­tor. When a per­son is out in the field, pre­sent­ing a brand and be­ing the face of that brand they have to know what to do so pre­dic­tive an­a­lyt­ics helps them.

“There’s in­for­ma­tion avail­able as to what worked for them and the cus­tomer and what might work bet­ter.”

She added that the sys­tem is based on big data where the com­pany har­nesses the power of AI through ma­chine-learn­ing al­go­rithms to pre­dict fu­ture events.

So just as she is bring­ing her tech­nol­ogy back­ground to CPM af­ter over a decade at Eir, CPM is mar­ry­ing its tech­nol­ogy ca­pa­bil­i­ties to im­prove its peo­ple-based of­fer­ings for its clients in the in­creas­ingly dis­rupted world of re­tail.

“We are a peo­ple busi­ness sup­ported by tech­nol­ogy. I do love tech­nol­ogy, but it’s the peo­ple part that has helped me to make a dif­fer­ence at CPM. It’s the com­bi­na­tion of the two that counts.

“Our data and re­search is be­ing used by mar­ket­ing teams at our client com­pa­nies to make busi­ness plans with their own cus­tomers. Our clients tell us these new facts and fig­ures have made a fun­da­men­tal dif­fer­ence to how they do busi­ness.

“We use data sci­en­tists to cre­ate in­for­ma­tion that are used by hu­mans, and by bring­ing the two to­gether you have a pow­er­ful tool which is con­stantly evolv­ing.”

CPM Ire­land, which is part of the larger group Om­ni­com, in the main is a provider of field mar­ket­ing and sales ser­vices to play­ers in the re­tail mar­ket.

The Ir­ish field mar­ket­ing mar­ket is worth about €100m and the com­pany has an es­ti­mated turnover of €20m a year.

While tech­nol­ogy is clearly an in­creas­ingly im­por­tant as­pect of CPM’S busi­ness, find­ing the right peo­ple for its clients is the top pri­or­ity.

How­ever, given the low unem­ploy­ment rates here against the back­drop of a boom­ing econ­omy, find­ing the right peo­ple for her clients has be­come a chal­lenge over the past few years.

Po­ten­tial em­ploy­ees have high ex­pec­ta­tions and are of­ten not will­ing to put in the ground­work, she told the Sun­day In­de­pen­dent.

“Peo­ple are be­gin­ning to lose their so­cial skills so peo­ple en­gage­ment is an is­sue. Tech­nol­ogy is in­ter­ven­ing too much and peo­ple are be­com­ing more used to en­gag­ing with their de­vices more than other in­di­vid­u­als.

“This comes across very strongly in in­ter­views. So the per­sonal touch, the per­sonal en­gage­ment is not there as much it would have been be­fore.

“For me I have to de­ci­pher the per­son and see what peo­ple can bring to us and the brands we work with ver­sus the value and the value they’ll bring ver­sus the cost to us and our clients.

“In the last three years I’ve seen an in­fla­tion ask from can­di­dates of be­tween 25pc and 45pc — and they are get­ting it.

“Then peo­ple be­gin to believe their own hype, and I’m find­ing it at the lower end of the mar­ket too, so as an out­sourc­ing agency we can pro­vide a lot of dif­fer­ent ser­vices. But a big part of our busi­ness is mer­chan­dis­ing and peo­ple com­ing in at the lower end work their way up the lad­der and that pays off for them. But it’s very hard to find those gems.”

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