Moving to a business which had a £34.1 billion turnover in 2020 might not be everybody’s idea of a “sideways move”. Yet that is how Wade Munsie believes some may have described his decision to join GSK Consumer Healthcare in 2019 as its first global chief data officer.
“I went from being CDO of a FTSE company [Royal Mail] to being CDO of a division of a company, although the size of that division is about the same,” he says. “For me, it was about the global role and that the transformation they were going into was more interesting.”
That highlights the strategic thinking which Munsie applies to situations and his role in developing them. GSK is on a two-year programme to split itself into two - pharmaceuticals and consumer healthcare - with the division he joined scheduled to float on the FTSE in 2022. Like an advanced driver looking through a curve ahead to see what the next challenge might be, he saw that plan as an opportunity to have a significant influence.
“I knew we had two years before the spin-off and that was what I was aiming at,” he says. GSK had already worked with external consultants to develop its concept of having digital and data analytics at the core of the organisation. “They didn’t know what that meant - it was a catch-phrase before I joined. Companies talk about that a lot, but I needed to get under the covers and translate it into a strategy and set of actions. That was the key.”
Drawing on his experience across previous years, Munsie recognised there was a need to develop the data literacy of the business first in order to activate that strategy. Ensuring stakeholders ask the right questions is central to what that catch-phrase means and how it comes to life. As he says: “You can’t enforce a strategy on people who don’t want to know or don’t understand it.”
Two years to build a new data office, including recruiting the team, getting the data foundations in place and developing that data literacy is a rapid timescale. But the scale of the other activities involved in launching a new business, from creating tax offices to putting HR policies in place, has provided a breathing space in which that data culture can be nurtured.
However, he also recognises that showing progress and having an impact is important for the business, as well as for talent acquisition. “Analysts looking at a new company want to know what its digital and data analytics agenda is, what the AI strategy is, what the ethics profile is, what the sustainability programme looks like. Those are things people care about these days,” he notes.
Munsie is clear about what needs to be done in order for the strategy to deliver on the vision set out by GSK. Which is why the move he made into the business was a strategic one that will lead to a significant outcome: “We have the opportunity now to push the agenda, understand the business and get the project backlog nice and crisp, so that when we are unleashed, we are ready to go.”
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