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Lorenzo Bavasso, data, analytics and AI director, BT Global

Lorenzo Bavasso, data, analytics and AI director, BT Global

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

 

We are on a challenging, but exciting journey to put data at the core of the business. The whole vision is about being more connected to partners/customers, providing them with well-managed, cloud-powered services, and plugging them into a data-rich eco-system.

 

Of course, we want to be digital-first and offer our customers a great, consistent, “personal but simple” experience. All of the above, together with the opportunity to create amazing products with the valuable data we have, have data and analytics as a foundational asset. We are building/evolving that foundation now and starting to interlock data both with the internal and external aspects of our vision.

 

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

 

This year was unprecedented and impacted everyone’s work and personal life. Our plans moved forward and, if nothing else, we felt the need to execute on our strategy. The emergency put in evidence how important it is to have, as a business, the ability to analyse a situation from different angles in order to act and adapt fast.

 

Standard KPIs or business measures work up to an extent because they measure aspects that we know already. We need a rounded view of our business/eco-system not only to react to challenges, but also to identify and seize new opportunities. This year was important because, despite the very sad circumstances, it urged everyone to change, understand and decide faster than ever before.

 

It also accelerated digital transformations significantly. This put data and our ability to exploit it even more on the spotlight. One example: the need to understand our people and “how they are doing” better, in addition to “how the business is doing”.

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

 

Scale, increased adoption and footprint. This year, we started a deep transformation journey and created an initial foundation both from a technology and also a people/process perspective. We are piloting/executing priority use cases and preparing the ground to scale-up fast with more and more data available on our cloud platform, more and more AI/ML/MI services to use.

 

We also want to look more to our customers in terms of data features for them to use, such as intelligent managed services and data collaboration platforms. We also want to progress further in the direction of self-serve and democratisation. We have now a “first step” hub and spoke approach to evolve.

 

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

 

I think after what happened this year it should be, in one way or another, in everyone’s agenda. For me personally, it will be about “profiling for good” - putting a lens on sustainability, wellbeing, where data can help to understand people needs, struggles and risks.

 

The pandemic taught us that the same information we can exploit for business purposes is extremely valuable to understand “how we are doing” as human beings, how exposed or vulnerable we are and what we can do about it.

 

I think 2021, hopefully in a more positive way, will be another year of big change. This is an opportunity to use data again and even better to help people re-starting and re-adapting to the real new normal.

What has been your path to power?

 

I started my career in consulting where I learned how to define and implement a vision and worked on projects in several innovation areas, including web applications, supply chain automation, data

and business intelligence. I then joined the telco industry where I always worked in big business

and technology transformations.

 

I kept moving from transformation to transformation, in different areas of the business, from back office to customer management/omni-channel and, finally, data because I enjoyed the challenge and seeing the evolution and progress around me. All the experiences of transforming the business prepared me to understand and lead the big cultural change that is required to be data driven.

 

I started the journey in Vodafone with its global big data implementation and then moved across the industry to see the different flavours of defining, implementing and running data and AI into a large organisation. The last year in BT Global has been incredible, starting the challenging journey towards being a data-driven business, leading a deep cultural, technologic and operational change with data at the very core.

 

We have made significant progress and there is motivation and appetite for more!

 

What is the proudest achievement of your career to date?

 

I would say the ability to always position myself and my team as trusted disruptors. One recent example is the massive improvement in co-operation between BT Global and some of the group functions. We proposed a quite different approach and, despite being strongly challenged initially, now it is the example to follow and showcased across the company. This has always been a driver and a reason for me to be proud, because when you gain trust as part of a significant change, you become a true transformation and innovation champion.

 

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

 

My main purpose is for us to unlock out-of-the-box thinking and the ability not only to answer difficult questions, but the possibility to ask them in the first place. That is being data-driven, when each employee feels empowered and enabled to challenge the status quo, to look from different perspectives, to discover opportunities.

 

Data can play a massive role in achieving that if we can exploit it fast, easily and…everywhere.

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?

 

Getting closer, every day. The telco industry is still not completely there, but is catching up. Data is progressively gaining traction and importance, but is still seen as a strategy on its own, rather than fully integrated in the business strategy.

 

We have to move towards data foundations that are defined/built for every business function to define their data-driven plans and execute them. Also, the funding approach has to evolve from central/use case-based business cases to a model where the core capability is built as a fundamental need of the business and then exploited (value-driven) across the busines, with a degree of autonomy.

 

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

 

Lead by example, build an embryo, an example of that culture, and then roll it out. This is one angle. The other is to address the majority of the organisation with basic up-skill programmes so they can relate faster to the initial examples.

 

Doing just one of the two is not enough. It is important to see where we want to get to, but also have as many people as possible in the organisation who understand the principles of it. The glue of all this is perseverance and patience.

 

We use data as humans to confirm our thinking, less often to challenge it. It is a significant shift!

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