How is your organisation using data and analytics to support the corporate vision and purpose?
Unilever is one of the largest consumer products companies in the world. Every day, 2.5 billion people use Unilever products to look good, feel good and get more out of life. With more than 400 brands in 190 countries, we have a unique opportunity to work with consumers to achieve our purpose of making sustainable living commonplace.
We are harnessing the power of data throughout all aspects of the company’s operations and processes by creating a culture that enables better and faster decision-making underpinned by data and analytics to power our growth.
Through leveraging data at scale, we are able to improve the quality of our innovation and build stronger brands, drive excellence in execution with our customers, enhance the consumer experience, and transform our internal operations to run more efficiently.
2020 was a year like no other - how did it impact on your planned activities and what unplanned ones did you have to introduce?
The events of 2020 had a huge impact on our planned activities. We quickly had to divert a lot of our resources (internal and external) to help the business get sharper visibility into key data and information to help manage the business through such unprecedented times. This ranged from short-term demand and supply forecasting, to inventory and supply management, to shipping and cash collection.
2020 was actually a year that demonstrated the power of having data and analytics to help the business to see better through the storm and make significant course corrections as new insights came online. We were able to use Unilever’s scale to predict and prepare our response market-by-market using insights gleaned from our analysis of what happened in countries which were among the first to be impacted by the virus.
Looking forward to 2021, what are your expectations for data and analytics within your organisation?
To continue the journey to help Unilever become data intelligent. To help our people make better and faster decisions augmented through the data and analytics available at their fingertips. We are expecting to see further changes in consumers’ needs and attitudes. We are also seeing the demand for more predictive analytics and better use of optimisation to drive both our effectiveness and efficiency. Another area where we will be placing energy is increasing our shared use of data with our suppliers and retail customers to improve our products and operations.
Is data for good part of your personal or business agenda for 2021? If so, what form will it take?
Yes absolutely, Data for good is both a personal objective for me and a business objective for Unilever.
We think about data for good in two main ways. Firstly, how we ensure that our employees, our suppliers and third parties are only using data in accordance with data governance principles and privacy legislation across all the markets in which we operate.
Additionally, in 2021, we are launching our data ethics programme which goes one step further, holding ourselves and our partners to the highest standards of ethics and transparency in data. Trust and transparency are becoming increasingly important for companies today and we believe that addressing ethics alongside privacy and security is a game-changer for businesses operating in a data and digital-first world.
Secondly, we are passionate about our purpose to help make sustainable living commonplace. So we have a number of key sustainability programmes, such as plastic reduction, reducing deforestation and water scarcity where we will be using data and advanced analytics to drive real impact with society.
What has been your path to power?
My role today is based in London with responsibility for the global data, information and advanced analytics agenda across the enterprise. These areas are synergistic, so it’s really good to have them together with an holistic strategy.
I started my career at Unilever in 2017. Prior to this, I spent 22 years at dunnhumby, where I played a significant role in growing the company from a feisty start-up into the world’s leading customer science business.
I joined dunnhumby in 1995 as a graduate from Oxford University and held a variety of roles that spanned operational and strategic positions, including leading both the client and solutions teams in the UK and Ireland, chief operating officer of dunnhumby Italia, senior vice president for the Kroger and manufacturing practice in the USA, and my ultimate role was as the chief operating officer of dunnhumby North America, based in Chicago. I also studied leadership development at IMD, Lausanne.
What is the proudest achievement of your career to date?
I’ve been very lucky as I’ve had a number of really proud moments in my career. Today, I’m most proud of the impact we are having today at Unilever and how data is really helping to drive our performance. Most importantly, how it is enabling our brands to have a positive impact around the world, helping to save lives during Covid-19 through the distribution of key health and hygiene products, such as Lifebuoy hand sanitiser. It’s amazing and really motivating to be part of a company that is really helping people through this crisis.
When I look back on my career, I’m most proud of establishing and managing the dunnhumby North America and dunnhumby Italia businesses, which were both great fun, successful but nail-biting journeys and, most importantly, led me to work with some quite fabulous people across two continents.
I also really enjoyed the work we did with the Kroger Company to help drive its performance with data, digital and e-commerce. Thinking further back, another highlight was launching the dunnhumby “shop” back in 1999, which still to this day is one of its most successful products, must have grossed over €1 billion and helped to create a whole new industry on data monetisation with retailer loyalty data.
Tell us about a career goal or a purpose for your organisation that you are pursuing?
There are two career goals that I am pursuing:
1) How we can use data and analytics at Unilever to have a demonstrable impact on society and the environment, whether that is plastics reduction, carbon reduction, halting deforestation or helping with water scarcity.
2) Improving gender diversity in data and analytics. We have made some small steps to improve gender diversity in data and analytics at Unilever with both external hiring and internal up-skilling, but we still have a long way to go across each of our markets. It’s a career goal of mine really to drive this and ensure that women around the world can see data and analytics as a brilliant career choice.
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?
Data and analytics is at the heart of our business today and our vision for Unilever tomorrow. We have established an enterprise data executive governance group, chaired by our CFO and with our executive team, to govern our data assets and maximise the business value that can be generated through more efficient and effective use of our data to drive the digital transformation (data offence), and to minimise risk to the company from potential data misuse (data defence), enabled through the right choices in data technology, advanced analytics (AI), talent and culture.
We also work closely with industry, too. For example, we are working closely with the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) data ethics board and other leading global companies to build out the world’s first guide on data ethics for brands. Encouraging companies to adopt the four fundamental principles for the ethical use of data and AI - respect, fairness, accountability and transparency - and to champion data ethics as a cultural challenge.
What is your view on how to develop a data culture in an organisation, building out data literacy and creating a data-first mindset?
Three examples that I have found useful: