How is your organisation using data and analytics to support the corporate vision and purpose?
As a services provider, our vision is to be the leading digital innovator, creating great experiences as we realise results for our clients and their customers through the power of people and the Microsoft eco-system. Our purpose is to make a genuine human impact for our clients and their customers, and for our employees. We use data and analytics throughout the company to support progress on five core values: 1) we change things for the better; 2) we innovate with passion and purpose; 3) we deliver with excellence; 4) we believe everyone counts; and 5) we act with integrity and respect.
2020 was a year like no other - how did it impact on your planned activities and what unplanned ones did you have to introduce?
As a digital services provider, we have had a mixed experience. Many planned internal activities were placed on hold while we deployed all our resources to support our existing clients and ensure we had the right model to mobilise quickly to help new prospective clients.
Our leadership, right from our CEO down, rapidly reset our plan and expectations for the year across the company. More frequent leadership communication was key to make sure everyone was engaged and knew how we were performing and what we were doing. We quickly replanned and repositioned our business to help our clients respond, reset and renew.
Being an extremely agile company, we were well placed to move to 100% virtual operations overnight and we helped our clients to make the transition rapidly. We quickly scaled up our data and AI client operations, launching a new near-shore data and AI delivery centre in Hungary to meet the extra client demand. We added extra controls to help our clients transition to a virtual way of working that has been hugely successful with us seeing little or no impact in our client projects and programmes.
Looking forward to 2021, what are your expectations for data and analytics within your organisation?
My expectations as an enabling data and analytics services provider fall into the three areas: continuing to grow and develop our team; dramatically increasing the speed of delivery; and continuing to lower the hurdles for businesses to adopt or advance data and analytics capabilities. Specifically on the second point, we need to do more with less. Thankfully, we have significant new intellectual property that we will now be exploiting to move clients rapidly to the cloud while deploying new platform patterns to make legacy hindrances extinct.
Is data for good part of your personal or business agenda for 2021? If so, what form will it take?
It certainly is. I have been professionally and personally active in data for good initiatives since 2012 when I set-up a collaboration with my then employer (RBS) and Macmillan Cancer Care. I’ve been careful to keep it part of my agenda. As a company, we have set a goal to become a trusted partner to not-for-profits for delivering Microsoft technologies globally and I’m always privileged to sponsor “tech for social good” programmes. I will continue this into 2021 and provide more support to our team, partners and clients to get involved if and when they can.
What has been your path to power?
My career started on the Barclays graduate programme. My career advanced quickly under excellent executive guidance and hard work. Amid the early days of the financial crisis, I was asked by RBS to play a pivotal role in its turnaround. Given the uncertainties of the times, I was given a lot of advice against making the move, but my heart told me that I’d regret not at least trying to help turnaround the critical situation at RBS. So, I left Barclays and over four years, I had a great time delivering a data and analytics transformation roadmap.
I left RBS to gain experience in the start-up market. I made a long-planned move into consulting with Atos. My successes there led to an opportunity to join IBM Global Business Services as its UK and Ireland executive for data platforms, advanced analytics, and Industry 4.0 and IoT. Eventually wanting a more diversified, stretching and global role, I joined Avanade as firstly the UK and Ireland executive for data and AI and I now I hold a UK-based dual role as the European executive for data platforms and the Accenture-Microsoft business group leader for data modernisation across Europe.
What is the proudest achievement of your career to date?
I was awarded the DataIQ Data and analytics eader of the year (enabler) award in 2020. This was a huge surprise and something that was an honour for me to receive. It certainly is the proudest achievement to date and something that I want to thank everyone for who has worked with me over almost 20 years in the data and analytics industry.
Tell us about a career goal or a purpose for your organisation that you are pursuing?
Avanade has a company purpose to make a genuine human impact by empowering and up-skilling young men and women through a range of opportunities and programmes. This is especially important in data and analytics where we continue to face a deficit in the availability of talent. It is more of an honour for me to use my experience and position by supporting career events in schools, helping UK universities with pro bono strategic advice, guest lecturing, volunteering my time to undergraduates with formal mentorship. I try to be a role model to help our staff get involved.
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?
We work as an enabler to many of the UK’s leading companies. As a company jointly-owned by Accenture and Microsoft, we are extremely aligned in how data and analytics is used in every aspect of how our business is run. We harness this expertise in a 360-degree way to improve the success of our clients, meaning we are very aligned with the different industry needs in data and analytics.
What is your view on how to develop a data culture in an organisation, building out data literacy and creating a data-first mindset?
Building a data-centric culture starts with strong and experienced leadership. Once in place, depending on the appetite of the organisation truly to develop a data culture, leadership at all levels needs to be bought-in that a transformation in their area may occur. This requires strong CEO/ board leadership, an open environment and excellent communication.
Naturally, there will be promoters, advocates and detractors. There are solutions to the permutations and combinations on how to navigate. Simply having a data strategy does not mean it will be adopted. Leadership that supports engagement, challenge and, ultimately, trust at all levels is critical.
Please share one tip you have found to be successful when looking to build support among the senior executive for a digital/data transformation.
Have a solid business case that aligns people behind a vision, organisational purpose and a clear set of objectives.