I lead business intelligence for fibre and network delivery in Openreach, the part responsible for the delivery of fibre and network infrastructure. My responsibilities span the data and analytics journey: generating data from systems to reporting, visualisation and insight, as well as more complex statistical modelling and data science. The data, analytics and insight my team creates support the 10,500 people that are building and enabling fibre connectivity throughout the UK. I’ve had a number of roles across Openreach. I started as a statistical modelling graduate in Openreach’s residential arm, which helped me to build an understanding of the insight that an operational business needs. I spent five years in sales, working on and then leading our high-profile government bids, before running national sales. This period really helped me to appreciate the importance of simplifying a complex message for your customer. I then was asked to move back into analytics to lead business intelligence. I’ve always been successful at making analytics accessible. People are scared of numbers, so finding ways to make data simple and understandable allows me to make Openreach ever more data literate.
In 2016, we used data and analytics to help turn around operational performance and products from one of the worst to one of the best in the world. This was a turning point for data and analytics in Openreach, proving the value of data and leading to greater investment in people and tools. The business now relies on our data and analytics, and proactively seeks new analytics and dashboards. While the transformational change on the product was amazing, I’m prouder of the cultural change that has put data at the forefront of people’s minds.
Don’t ignore the softer skills in your job. A good analyst with great people and communication skills is better than a great analyst who can’t get their ideas across to anyone.
Looking at the wider industry, GDPR was the main concern coming in 2018. However, it doesn’t appear to have been as disruptive as expected. That might be because the industry was well prepared for it. But one thing it has driven is a much more robust discussion around data governance and process, and it has put data risk on the table at C-level.
We’re only just scratching the surface of artificial intelligence. With Alexa, Siri, etc, starting to become “smarter” and being embedded into ever more innovative applications and products (ie, IoT), there will be continued growth in AI-generated data and opportunities. And if AI can be properly applied to analytics, we will start to see the growth in augmented BI which should be able to reduce the time taken to generate insight from data.
Firstly, we’re ensuring that we do the basics well. We ensure our people have clear development plans and we invest in their training and skilling. Where needed, we use more radical people retention plans, although this is really more about open and honest conversations with your team and using that information to plan when they move. We are looking at new sources of talent, both in the apprentice and graduate market, and we are starting to build our engagement at university level for a longer term pipeline of talent.
Perhaps a niche in Openreach, but I’m looking forward to rolling out analytics on mobile platforms that our engineers will be able to use over 4G to access remotely while out on jobs. This has the potential to create innovative use cases for data and analytics that drive operational benefit.