How is your organisation using data and analytics to support the corporate vision and purpose?
GSK Consumer Healthcare is on a journey towards forming a brand-new company and underpinning the transformation is a concerted digital ,data and analytics agenda. We are using this momentum to build a data strategy to support the corporate vision on both a strategic and tactical level. This helps us shape our investment into technology and people alike.
2020 was a year like no other - how did it impact on your planned activities and what unplanned ones did you have to introduce?
On joining GSK Consumer Healthcare, I had several big activities planned for 2020. The first of those was to build an awesome team of data professionals. I think it’s fair to say that I have been successful. However, as a people person, it was much harder than I ever expected doing it virtually. We have now gone from zero to 60 (people) in 10 months and still going!
The second objective I had was to visit our markets and understand their challenges and work out how a global team with scale could provide support. Covid-19 certainly grounded me (literally)! I haven’t been able to visit the key markets I had wanted to and it’s certainly made things tough. Remote working and video conferencing have their place, but there is no replacement for a face-to-face meeting sometimes. I look forward to getting back on a plane next year. albeit much less than before.
There were several nice things to come out of this situation, though. Right from the first week back in March, I started holding different team events via Zoom. Coffee mornings, Friday drinks and even a Halloween pumpkin carving special have all helped break the meeting monotony and keep us connected, even if we can’t meet face-to-face.
Looking forward to 2021, what are your expectations for data and analytics within your organisation?
My leadership has very high expectations of my team in 2021. They expect us to lead them towards data-driven decision-making, take them closer to real-time insights and inject artificial intelligence into the DNA of the business. All of these are no small feats and yet I can’t wait to get started!
Is data for good part of your personal or business agenda for 2021? If so, what form will it take?
Data for good has become a big personal mission for me. When I first interviewed at GSK, I presented data for good as an idea to the leadership team and it’s honestly become part of our strategy. Of course, it means different things to everybody. Is it about ensuring consumer privacy is maintained, that company risk is managed or that data ethics are instilled into your company DNA? It could also simply be supporting those causes around you on projects, using data science to make the world a better place.
I love the idea that what we do in our work lives can have a positive impact on our employees, our customers, the environment and society as a whole.
What has been your path to power?
With over 20 years in the data and analytics industry, I started off as an analyst back when VBA with some clever maths was about the most sophisticated one could get. Starting in the telco industry at BT, Three and T-Mobile, I got to understand what business performance and operations were about and how being good with data could help create insights and efficiencies.
I moved on from there to the movie industry with global director roles in both Warner Bros and Sony Pictures. I got to understand what drives consumer behaviour and what customer and product profitability looks like.
After joining Royal Mail in 2014, I had the opportunity to transform a traditional organisation from spreadsheets to dashboards and beyond while creating many opportunities along the way to redefine an operating model, introduce advanced analytics and data science, and build a full end-to-end data function, attaining the chief data officer role along the way. There I was able to build an amazing data team of scientists, engineers, analysts and programmers to deliver full-stack data innovation to the business.
In 2019, I decided to follow the vision of an amazing leadership team at GSK and join part of something special - the UK’s biggest de-merger in history and the opportunity to be part of a new FTSE 100 company. I joined as chief data officer in a department of one and proceeded to buildfrom scratch.
In the past 10 months, I have recruited over 50 people, delivered a data strategy, set out a roadmap for governance, AI, Innovation, ethics and data strategy for the company and, as we move into 2021, I can’t wait really to deliver data products at scale for a business that is hungry for data-driven change.
What is the proudest achievement of your career to date?
I would have to say that my team at Royal Mail made me proud every day I was there. We had fun, we won awards, we did good for the community and we delivered value to the business with a 10x benefit. I like to think I am well on my way as GSK, but it’s still too early to call it just yet. Ask me next year.
Tell us about a career goal or a purpose for your organisation that you are pursuing?
I want to build a data function that not only delivers value to the business, but also doing it in a way that is ethically responsible in the use of data.
How closely aligned to the business are data and analytics both within your own organisation and at an industry level? What helps to bring the two closer together?
As a new function that was formed to deliver a data and analytics agenda, I think that we are totally aligned. At present, what brings us closer together is the common goal of providing value in everything we do. This is what will underpin our value to investors, customers and employees.
That value and its discovery will be unearthed through solid data foundations, excellent data science and deriving amazing insights.
What is your view on how to develop a data culture in an organisation, building out data literacy and creating a data-first mindset?
I believe that a data culture is developed in several ways. First of all, the drive and need must come from the executive leadership (board). That drive must then lead to the creation of a data strategy covering foundations, enablement, culture and exploitation. Finally, taking that strategy, applying it to the corporate vision and driving a common taxonomy and understanding throughout the organisation, starting at the top.