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Emma Kissock, head of data platform, British Gas New Energy Platform

Emma Kissock, head of data platform, British Gas New Energy Platform

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

 

As a new business unit, we are lucky that we are in the position to be currently working together to shape what our corporate vision and values will be. Simply, we want to provide a great energy product to customers at the best price point we can.

 

Data is hugely important as we try to grow our customer base. How can we onboard new customers better? What do they want to see in an online service? Without data we don’t know anything at all.

 

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

 

2020 certainly was a year like no other! It was particularly difficult for Centrica as we faced the pandemic and also a large business restructure. We said goodbye to colleagues and took on new roles in new teams, all while adapting to the new home working mentality. One positive of all the uncertainty was that it allowed us to focus on what was really important. When almost half my team were furloughed, we really had to take a step back and rethink what we considered ‘success’ to be. On some weeks, it was just keeping the lights on.

 

With the formation of the New Energy Platforms business unit coming together in 2020, we even had to plan a virtual onboarding week which was interesting!

 

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

 

We aim to have our data warehouse ready in January 2021, which should open data up to everyone in the New Energy organisation. With that, the business can easily access data to make decisions. We are a relatively new business unit and its vital that we use data to determine how we position ourselves.

 

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

 

The forensics sector isn’t terribly well known for its advancements in data technologies so myself and a few friends have been looking into how software could help reduce sample processing time and assist with lab management. There’s definitely room for improvement, but obviously security is key.

 

What has been your path to power?

 

As many in the world of data often do, I have had a bit of an unconventional route to my current role.

 

After finishing my MSc in Forensic Science, I worked as a forensic toxicologist for a few years. Forensics is a difficult industry to move up the ladder in and I found I wanted a role with more people management and project delivery. It was by chance I met someone at a BBQ who said I would make a good scrum master and after some Googling (wait, there’s no rugby involved?) I was on my way to a career in data.

 

Every day has been a huge learning curve for me. On my first day at Hive, I was trying to sound out "Ku-ber-nee-tees" to try to understand what the data engineers were talking about!

What is the proudest achievement of your career to date?

 

My proudest moment was definitely the delivery of the AWS data lake at Hive. When the project started, cloud-based infrastructure was really new to me and I was just starting to get to grips with actually delivering something in an agile way. It seemed so daunting at first, but I just had to throw myself in. We delivered a great solution on time and in budget, training some fantastic juniors along the way.

 

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

 

Anyone who has spent even ten minutes in a room with me will likely know how much I care about data privacy. I’m one of those odd people, who submits subject access requests for fun.

 

During my time within the Hive business unit at Centrica, I literally gatecrashed every team and project meeting I could, armed with a Powerpoint presentation to put the world to rights about how we could improve our data privacy processes. There had traditionally been a view that GDPR and privacy were just an annoying tick box with so much red tape that no one was ever happy.

 

We created a big culture change while at Hive in this area and now I want to roll those attitudes out across NEP. I want to see a business where people think about data and how to protect it right at the beginning of a project. It’s not a box to be ticked, it’s a way of thinking that puts our customers’ safety first.

 

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?

 

With NEP still being relatively new and quite small, the business and the data/analytics teams really are very closely aligned. When you are designing something new, they have to be.

 

Complexities grow as the business grows and it’s important to make sure that the right attitudes are built from the ground up. I’m hoping that by encouraging a data-driven culture right from the beginning (by shouting about it a lot), we can educate our teams to rely on data.

 

If I know a team will come to me frequently with requests, I would rather show them how we would handle their query and teach them to pull that data themselves if possible.

 

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 might sound simple, but you can have the best people with the best technologies yet if they don’t have all the data they need, you are going to struggle. The first part of creating a data culture in an organisation is to first create a data team that can truly deliver in a place where all the data is readily available and trusted.

 

From that, it’s all down to communication. Making sure data is represented at every project or delivery meeting is key – someone who knows the value of what the data can do. After a while, it becomes second nature and I find people within the business often start asking to understand the data themselves. That’s where education and a bit of patience comes into play.

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