AI is currently on everyone's agenda, and of course, it's on ours too.

In this interview, Aaron Hand, who plays a key role at Holcim as Head of Data Analytics & Business Intelligence, shares his vision on how AI is driving business strategies, the challenges facing the industry today, as well as the opportunities and success factors. 

insights on ai and data analytics


From your perspective, how is AI redefining the industry Holcim operates in?

We are in a truly digital era, collecting an unprecedented amount of data through our connected devices. As a result, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is playing a crucial role in accelerating our understanding of this data, improving its quality, and enabling transformative business applications. At Holcim’s our accelerated progress toward net-zero building decarbonization and Plants of Tomorrow leading one of the largest roll-outs of Industry 4.0 in the building materials industry owes much to the strategic application of AI on relevant data.

In terms of AI and data analytics, what are the biggest challenges industry faces, and how are you addressing them? 

With all the hype around AI  right now, it can be tempting for companies to pursue AII initiatives without proper prioritization and security guardrails, also laws and regulations around AI have been relatively slow to materialize compared to the rapid pace of technological development. At Holcim, we foster responsible AI, with an environment that prioritizes ethics, transparency, and accountability. This involves assembling a diverse team of experts, implementing robust security measures, managing risks, and ensuring proper data governance.

Can you share how Holcim’s data strategy aligns with its sustainability and corporate responsibility goals?

At Holcim, our commitment to achieving net-zero targets across Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions is grounded in a science-driven approach. We recognize that data-driven decision-making is essential for our success, as the adage goes: “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” Furthermore, we actively engage our strategic partners to align with our sustainability net-zero goals.

How do trends in AI and data analytics influence business strategy formulation?

In today’s competitive landscape, any business strategy that neglects to harness the potential of AI, or data analytics risks falling behind its rivals. Previously, not all business sectors incorporated AI, but with the advent of GenAI, we observe that virtually every line of business now integrates some form of AI into its strategic framework. Indeed, AI and data analytics have become integral components across all industries. As AI technologies continue to evolve, their impact on strategy formulation will only grow stronger.

Considering the rapid advancement of technology, how is Holcim preparing for future changes in artificial intelligence and data analytics?

First and foremost, we are establishing a solid foundation for developing responsible AI. Subsequently, our emphasis lies on flexible and loosely connected architectures, allowing seamless integration of state-of-the-art technologies and highly efficient models available in the market.

How do you foster a culture of innovation and continuous learning within your team?

Creating a culture of innovation and continuous learning within a team is essential for growth, adaptability, and long-term success. I firmly believe that reciprocity is the cornerstone of building strong relationships. It opens doors to fresh perspectives, valuable resources, and collaborative knowledge sharing. Each of us has something to learn and a unique idea to contribute. At Holcim, we've established several outstanding Centers of Excellence and Communities of Practice. These platforms host events, publish insightful articles, and foster open knowledge exchange. A shining example is our AI Community, with over 3,000 page views per month. 

In terms of talent development, what skills do you find most valuable for professionals wanting to specialize in AI and data analytics today?

For beginners, I recommend learning  data science basics. This includes gaining proficiency in Python, SQL, and data visualization, as well as understanding the principles of data design. Joining an AI Community of Practice projects is a great way to collaborate and learn from experienced peers. At Holcim, for instance, we have launched an AI & ML Accelerator: Group Mentoring Program. It is important to be curious, keep an open mind, and focus on the skills you aspire to achieve. 

What would be your advice to companies that are starting to explore and integrate AI and data analytics into their strategies?

I would suggest fostering an "AI-first" mindset from top-down and bottom up. You never know where the next groundbreaking idea will come from. I would advise companies to go smart with AI not go Big, target to be an AI-enabled company but data-driven.