How is your organisation using data and analytics to support the corporate vision and purpose?
The MoD has committed to build a “digital backbone” that connects sensors, effectors and decision-makers across military domains and with our partners, to enable faster, data-driven decisions and improved operational and corporate outcomes.
As data is such a core enabler, a data office has been established and will lead on establishing and developing the enduring data pan-defence capability which the department currently lacks and needs. The defence data office will achieve this through the fulfilment of data services and the embedding of data into the defence operating model, bringing it into place to effectively deliver the data mandate.
2020 was a year like no other - how did it impact on your planned activities and what unplanned ones did you have to introduce?
I moved to a new house and joined the MoD as the chief data officer a month into the first national lockdown. I had no military background (apart from my father being in the RAF during WWII) and had only ever worked in industry as a “data professional”, albeit for over 30 years. I guess in that sense, it didn’t impact my planned activities as I was starting from scratch in a newly-created role. But the main effort was adapting to a new way of working in a new department and sector to me.
Building relationships was a key challenge as I love to engage and meet others face-to-face but had good support to help steer me in the direction of all my colleagues – it was about ensuring I made the time to meet virtually, build relationships and check in on a personal level as well as worked-focused discussions.
As I reflect on last year, I am proud of the team that has formed, relationships built and the continued effort of my colleagues to ensure we are staying safe.
Looking forward to 2021, what are your expectations for data and analytics within your organisation?
Data will remain a key priority for the MoD in 2021 and I will work across the department to establish and develop the enduring pan-defence data capability, which we currently lack and need. This capability will enable the transformational change in the MoD’s exploitation of data.
Is data for good part of your personal or business agenda for 2021? If so, what form will it take?
Data is one of the highest priorities on my personal and business agenda in 2021, helped by the fact that now, more than ever, data has proven its importance across government and in the public eye during the pandemic.
Data has driven the response to the pandemic and has also shaped the effort for our military and civilian colleagues to lead the MoD through the pandemic. This effort has also been coupled with the support to the wider government effort under the Military Aid to Civilian Authority (MACA) requests.
What has been your path to power?
I have been working with data and part of the data industry/profession for over 30 years. My real senior leadership began in 2000 with Centrica across several roles. After eight years, I moved to Vodafone and finished as the director for big data, data science and analytics and business intelligence for Vodafone Germany, defining their analytics, BI and big data strategy. I led the successful definition and execution of the major data transformation programme to deliver significant commercial and competitive advantage at global scale.
I went on to become the chief data officer for Ordnance Survey, leading on its data strategy and ensuring location data was defined and better enabled as a critical and national strategic location data asset.
I was on the advisory board for the ONS Data Science campus and now the advisory board for VM ware.
I have been recognised in the UK top 20 Women in Data & Technology 2019 and the Data IQ top 100 for two years, which has been incredible.
What is the proudest achievement of your career to date?
My proudest achievement is having the opportunity to work for the MoD as I am truly grateful to be given this chance to bring my skillset into this organisation. It is a unique and inspiring department to work for and as its first chief data officer, it truly is fantastic to be leading the data agenda, working across government, with industry, colleagues and allies and partners nationally and internationally.
Tell us about a career goal or a purpose for your organisation that you are pursuing?
My goal is to fully embed the data office within the MoD. In doing that, if I can change the way colleagues view and treat data by enabling functional and cultural change and having a "data-first" mindset - I would have achieved a great accomplishment the department.
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?
It is widely recognised across industry that if we do not get the data right then the exploitation of that for analytics of all forms is compromised. The MoD data office therefore aligning with other government departments and industry and is specifically being set up to partner with our business areas and military commands to enable data exploitation.
The office is fundamentally about collaborating, cohering and coordinating across the department. The office will drive data standardisation, build data information architecture and create data standards and skills.
What is your view on how to develop a data culture in an organisation, building out data literacy and creating a data-first mindset?
It starts with the communication and engagement - being able to tell and sell the data story and focusing on the benefits will drive the behavioral and cultural changes that are needed.
Data excellence and exploitation does not happen by magic - we are not pink unicorns! Therefore, communicating effectively that this is not a project, it’s an enduring capability that requires persistence, personal resilience and expertise. It is key to recognise and drive all aspects of the data agenda - the awesome work on analytics, data science, artificial intelligence etc is only possible if we get the data fundamentals right.