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Lauren Walker, global COO and transformation officer, solutions, Dentsu

Lauren Walker, global COO and transformation officer, solutions, Dentsu

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

 

The management continues to make critical technology and people investments in ensuring we have the right foundation to support a data-driven culture. We’ve been focused on the adoption of critical enterprise data applications, which hold our customer, partner, employee and finance master data.

 

Many of the basic data and analytics investments are still the most powerful and ubiquitous, but we’re moving into more AI-based initiatives in areas that improve our efficiency. Our use of data not only helps us make critical decisions on how we best support our clients, our employees and our shareholders, but also helps us drive delivery of the UN Sustainable Development Goals and deliver social impact across the globe.

 

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

 

We have been undergoing a business transformation to improve the way we partner with and service our clients. The impact of 2020 has helped demonstrate the importance of these transformation initiatives.

 

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

 

In 2021, we’re continuing our digital sales and client transformation. Last year, we focused on linking the data between our CRM and finance systems, which has enabled us greater visibility into our client engagement and performance. This year, we’ll have an increased focus on linking our digital presence with our CRM investments. The constant in the past few years has been the investments in the people, process and technology, which work together to power our business model, to engage our employees and ultimately enable us to deliver a superior customer experience.

 

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

 

Business impact for social good is a big focus for our company and close to my heart. Making my community a better place inspired me to enter politics early in my career. As a data leader and change agent, I see digital literacy and data ethics as a key subject we must teach in schools and in business. Beyond being a topic for legal and privacy experts, all of us in executive data and tech roles need to contribute to improving data and digital literacy in society. We recently issued a study, “Decoding data dynamics,” which we are using internally as well with our clients to provoke conversations on topics that bring key data and digital literacy topics to light in a strategic business context.

 

What has been your path to power?

 

My data career kicked off with political polling and survey research, which led me to the Clinton/Gore White House, after which I joined ChoicePoint (now a division of LexisNexis) in a marketing role. While in that role, I was promoted to build a new identity solution, for the public sector.

 

Through that experience, and even since, I’ve been bringing together data, technology and strategy to solve business problems. I also learned how to turn data from a raw asset into a monetisable revenue stream.

 

I left ChoicePoint to attend Yale University School of Management, where I received my MBA. Upon graduation, I embarked on a ten-year career at IBM with senior roles in global marketing, sales leadership, consulting and M&A. Some highlights include leading the MDM business, launching the big data and analytics business in Europe and creating the Watson customer analytics partnership with Acxiom.

 

In 2017, I joined Dentsu International as EMEA chief data officer, where I harmonised our data and digital experts to improve our clients’ customer centricity. As global COO for sales and transformation, I’m building a growth eco-system (people, process and tech), which will enable our ability to deliver superior customer experience.

 

What is the proudest achievement of your career to date?

 

Moving the CDO role from a back-office IT function to a front-office product and strategy position, supporting the internal client-facing teams and clients with their data strategies.

 

In 2017, I founded the Dentsu Data Labs, a shared service of data professionals who bridge between traditional media data capabilities (market research), digital media and adtech capabilities (web analytics and programmatic). Partnering with the exec team, I brought together the top market research, programmatic, web and digital analytics, media data, data science and data engineering experts across Dentsu International.

 

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

 

It is more of a personal goal, in that I seek out opportunities to mentor those working in marketing, data and tech communities. As career journeys are not as obvious or clear cut as they were in the past, and new jobs and roles are being invented much more rapidly, I find it important and rewarding to help those navigating their career paths in data.

 

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?

 

Consumer data has forever been the fuel for the advertising and marketing industry. What has changed is the amount of data available and the number of technologies and containers available to analyse, process and store it.

 

In our industry, data and analytics are fundamentally linked to our business goals. Delivering a desired customer experience requires a significant amount of data to flow through a variety of processes and technologies, underpinned by a clearly defined customer growth strategy.

 

Post-GDPR, post-Covid-19, a sizeable amount of customer data is held inside the walled gardens (Google, Amazon Facebook and Apple). Much like the credit bureaux have provided risk profile-related consumer data to the finance industry, Google, Amazon and Facebook are now providing the consumer purchasing profile to every business community.

 

And, like the credit bureaux before them, Google, Amazon, Alibaba and Tencent have the data and tech, use the data and tech and sell the data and tech. It is imperative that as each organisation looks at their own data and analytics alignment to their business and to take inspiration from how Google, Amazon and Facebook have organised their operating models, which are fuelled by the monetisation of 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?

 

The key ingredient to developing a data culture in an organisation is the executive teams’ collective belief in making substantial investments to enable a data culture. These investments take the form of promoting or hiring senior leaders who understand the importance and power of data and empowering them to evolve the current people, process and technology towards a modern, data-first eco-system.

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