How is your organisation using data and analytics to support the corporate vision and purpose?
The data strategy I am building and delivering is critical to KPMG’s digital transformation and the firm’s core strategy - to deliver growth through trust. Data enables us to understand ourselves and our markets. Managing it in the right way allows us to build trust and create an efficient and streamlined business. And, finally, it provides the mechanism to innovate, and further differentiate ourselves.
2020 was a year like no other - how did it impact on your planned activities and what unplanned ones did you have to introduce?
Interestingly, I had only joined KPMG at the end of 2019 and my plan was to really get into the heart of the business to understand what type of data strategy would be right for the firm. As of March 2020, that went out of the window. The world was reacting, firms like ours were hunkering down and trying to manage their people, clients, and the economy as best they could.
So, what I could deliver as a CDO had to change rapidly too. I had to temporarily park the longer term ambitions and help where it really counted. This was predominantly making sure we were safely enabling our people with the technologies we were rolling out. We pretty much went digital overnight and the data usage implications were huge. Providing guidance and policy and a point of contact which, while not sexy, proved hugely transformational and was a vital part of supporting our people and clients through some very tough times.
Looking forward to 2021, what are your expectations for data and analytics within your organisation?
Despite spending a lot of 2020 having to scramble (as did everyone), I was able to understand the business, and make some great connections; both informed the direction I knew I needed to take our business in. So, data remains a key focus, and we have some foundations to build. These foundations are being built as follows:
Is data for good part of your personal or business agenda for 2021? If so, what form will it take?
Yes, both. For me, making sure we are doing the right thing for our people and our clients with our data is non-negotiable. Much of the work I have been doing this year has been educating our people and challenging where things haven’t been done as well as they should be historically. Also, my small team and I agreed early on, that we would have a philanthropic approach to sourcing some of the skills we would need. We are committed to recruiting apprentices and supporting people who want a career change and have chosen data (because why wouldn’t they!).
KPMG as a firm truly is leveraging some great data science expertise to help with some of the wider issues our country faces. We have a data science practice led by a wonderful role-model, Dr Rebecca Pope, who is at the forefront of KPMGs data for good activity. One of the many things Rebecca does, is a one-day-a-week voluntary secondment at Great Ormond Street Hospital, as its data science strategy lead. Her linked-in profile will tell you more!
What has been your path to power?
It was when I was at PwC and about to turn 40 that I had a bit of an epiphany. I finally decided that data was the thing where I would make my name. I wasn’t a technical data person, but I knew the value and I knew how to make things easier for people.
I also knew how to strategise and bring people along the journey with me. It was during the course of trying to get our data to work for us, that I discovered a whole new world, of data architecture, governance; enterprise data modeling – ie, the fundamentals which would enable any organisation to get the best out of their data. It was at this point, I knew I wanted to be a CDO, and I set my sights on this. I joined KPMG as the CDO in 2019, and the rest is history.
Looking back, I realise I have always had some role which included data, it’s almost like it was my destiny. I started in market research, moved over to insights, and then market intelligence. I always inherently understood the power of data and information, and how getting it into the hands of those who needed it, in the right way, would be a true enabler.
What is the proudest achievement of your career to date?
I’m sure there will be more to come, but the one that springs to mind is when I was at PwC. People weren’t buying the whole data foundations message, but I knew it was the right thing to do. When the CFO and the CIO called me, following a new CRM implementation which had "broken" the data, being the only person who knew what to do was scary and empowering. I set to work immediately to educate the business, building a team of experts and, more importantly, fixing the issues so they never happened again. The reason I am proud, isn’t because it was an "I told you so momen" - being able to help was the most incredible feeling.
Tell us about a career goal or a purpose for your organisation that you are pursuing?
My goal is to enable the firm to truly harness the power of data, and to understand what we need to do in order to make data our superpower.
Data here has been largely thought about in very siloed ways. Historically we have had management information, we’ve had operational data and we’ve had the issue of managing data storage and information. The trick is to educate the business to understand it is all part of a data continuum or lifecycle. You can’t think about data just in the context of MI, or just when it becomes a problem because we’re spending a lot of money on storage. Data is at the heart of every decision, process, technology and thinking about it that way will mean we can truly harness its power.
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?
There is a lot of alignment between business and internal when it comes to data. Both sets of teams work closely together. Generally speaking, my internal team has focused on the foundational, and driving an enterprise data strategy. The business facing teams, focus more on data innovation. However, there is a lot of crossover. We continue to learn from each other.
What is your view on how to develop a data culture in an organisation, building out data literacy and creating a data-first mindset?
I think it’s important to understand where you are first. So, conduct some kind of data maturity assessment. We’ve found here that we have a lot of people who are very data savvy and, almost in equal parts, a lot of people who wouldn’t recognise data if it bit them on the nose. You will need different mechanisms for all types of user. For the experts, for me it’s about joining forces, enablement and innovating together. For the less comfortable, it’s about guiding, hand-holding, and educating in a way which makes them comfortable. We also are investing in people who want to make data their expertise through apprenticeships and secondments.