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Cornelia Schaurecker, global group director big data and AI, Vodafone

Cornelia Schaurecker, global group director big data and AI, Vodafone

How is your organisation using data and analytics to support the corporate vision and purpose?

 

Data, AI and analytics are central to Vodafone’s strategic digital transformation. We have a highly-skilled, international team who work to unlock the full potential of our enormous data assets to create more value for our customers and our shareholders. This work increases Vodafone’s profitability by optimising the customer experience, improving investment decisions, such as retail store locations and network expenditure, and automating core business processes such as marketing.

 

2020 was a year like no other - how did it impact on your planned activities and what unplanned ones did you have to introduce?

 

Our teams rose brilliantly to the challenges of 2020. In every market, our data and AI teams worked from home for most of the year, and still delivered on all their use case commitments.

 

As soon as the pandemic struck, we moved quickly to help governments and the international community by securely analysing the mobility behaviours of populations and how this related to the spread of Covid-19 and its impact on society. Our anonymised and aggregated insights have helped a number of institutions to better understand the impacts of lockdowns on different economic sectors and locations, supporting better public policy decisions.

 

We also delivered insights into Covid-driven changes in shopping behaviours, as part of our channel optimisation use cases, giving our commercial teams early access to emerging trends. We continued with our ambition to grow our capabilities, and, with fantastic support from our HR and IT teams, managed to double the strength of our central data science team in a digital-first approach, with fully online hiring and onboarding processes.

 

Looking forward to 2021, what are your expectations for data and analytics within your organisation?

 

2021 will be yet another exciting year! The pandemic has accelerated key trends that Vodafone was already responding to as part of its digital transformation journey. We know that data is critical to enable that transformation. We will continue our journey to "AI everywhere", ensuring that data is democratised, and that we enable our brilliant teams, wherever they are working, to collaborate on the biggest challenges facing our organisation. We’ll complete our full migration to a cloud-based data and analytics platform, allowing both scale and pace.

 

Is data for good part of your personal or business agenda for 2021? If so, what form will it take?

 

Data and AI for social good has been a core part of our team’s work in recent years. We have carried out pioneering work in collaboration with organisations, including the University of Southampton, Gates Foundation and Clinton Health Access Initiative, to map the spread of malaria in Mozambique so that treatment can be better targeted.

 

That work was a fantastic platform to accelerate our participation in initiatives tackling the impact of Covid-19. We’ll continue to develop this work in 2021. We believe that mobility insights are a key element in understanding the spread of infectious diseases and managing their impact on global societies.

 

We’ll also be starting to work on use cases to address social inclusion and sustainability in 2021. We have already started looking at the topic of energy efficiency.

 

What has been your path to power?

 

I’ve always been passionate about all things data and digital, choosing to study in the areas of technology and innovation before it was fashionable!

 

I worked in digital and IT roles in Audi, before co-founding the Volkswagen Data: Lab, building a data-driven innovation hotspot for all the group brands and Silicon Valley companies. I then moved to the BMW Group’s EMEA IT organisation, leading on GDPR, cyber-security, all digital priorities for the region, as well as building a data science capability that embedded design thinking, agile practice and rapid prototyping.

 

In 2019, I moved to the world of telco, heading Vodafone’s global big data and AI team as we build and implement our "AI everywhere" strategy. Our highly-skilled international team of around 300 data scientists, agile product owners and data engineers in the group and nearly 20 markets, securely use the power of our data, cloud and AI to leverage the big data and AI insights across the business, delivering tremendous business value. This is supported by continued investment into in-house data science and our cloud migration across markets, in order to deliver data products (and thus business benefits) faster, more standardised and at scale.

 

What is the proudest achievement of your career to date?

 

I’m proud of what my small, high-performing teams of smart individuals have achieved with their bright ideas and passion for data. But our response in recent months to the pandemic is a high point. We rapidly mobilised our AI team, in partnership with the University of Southampton, to provide cross-European mobility data (all anonymised and aggregated) to give key insights into how the virus would spread. We used our prior work in understanding the spread of malaria in Mozambique to accelerate our efforts and are supporting governments and NGOs with our insights. The same data is also being repurposed internally to understand the ever-changing situation for our retail store network.

 

Tell us about a career goal or a purpose for your organisation that you are pursuing?

 

Transforming data into commercial value is our purpose for our big data and AI organisation, leading the way by using data science and machine learning approaches to improve the customer experience, boost revenues, reduce costs, and develop new products. I am planning to expand this work through a larger team of data scientists collaborating on our fully cloud-based AI platform to build scalable, supportable solutions that can be rapidly adopted across our organisation.

 

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?

 

Telcos have always been data-rich organisations but haven’t always delivered against the many potential opportunities this offers. With Vodafone’s digital transformation, we are seeing data moving towards the heart of all we do, delivering richer customer insights, optimising investments, and improving internal processes.

 

To bring data and analytics to the heart of our business, we have three main focus areas:

  • Collaborative agile working practices to deliver at pace, ensuring that we can move quickly into action and deliver incrementally, allowing our business stakeholders to input into the solutions we develop. We were delighted to be recognised recently in this area with the Best stakeholder management DataIQ award in 2020;

  • Scalability through shared platforms and common data models, that enable solutions developed by one team to be rapidly rolled out in other areas of our business;

  • Creating a data-driven culture where everyone in our business, from our sales departments to HR, from marketeers to IT architects, can confidently and effectively use our insights to improve our business. This means we have to increase the data literacy of teams across our business.

 

What is your view on how to develop a data culture in an organisation, building out data literacy and creating a data-first mindset?

 

A data-oriented culture is vital in delivering Vodafone’s data and AI strategy. We need to be transparent about the data we hold, breaking down siloes between teams and sharing data knowledge – tools such as metadata management and data lineage can be really useful here. We then need to make it easy to share data across the organisation, while ensuring it remains fully secure. We are championing cloud-based platforms to do this at scale and pace.

 

I’m also a fan of "data by design", where all products and services are designed around effective use of data, ensuring they benefit from, and contribute to, shared data within the organisation. Celebrating data successes and the teams behind them is also essential to promoting a healthy data culture; a communications strategy is really helpful here.

 

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