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Martin Aylward, head of smart programme, EDF Energy

Martin Aylward, head of smart programme, EDF Energy

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

 

Data and analytics is central to our purpose of “Helping Britain achieve net zero”. For example, we are using the billions of data items from our smart meter asset base to understand the usage patterns of our customers to inform our zero carbon generation asset strategy. Additionally, we are providing our customers with easy-to-use data visualisation tools so they can better manage their energy consumption and play their part in helping achieve net zero.

 

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

 

Like most businesses, Covid-19 massively impacted on our 2020 plans. However, rather than furlough staff, we sought to repurpose people wherever we could. For example, when we had to pause our smart metering roll-out activity in the first lockdown, we used our installers in a “force for good” project which, in partnership with Boots and Lloyds Pharmacy, delivered 100,000 essential medicines to our and other suppliers’ customers who were unable to leave their homes.

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

 

My expectation is that data and analytics will continue to play a central role at EDF and our investments in data over the last few years will add more value to the business. For example, after delivering significant value in back office operations and marketing, we will use robotics across a wider range of areas. Another key focus is up-skilling people across the business in data - and DataIQ is a key part of this plan!

 

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

 

Yes - we will continue to use data and analytics to help our vulnerable customers. For example, using smart metering data to identify vulnerable customers in need of additional help. Also, we are looking to build on a report by Smart Energy GB that suggests that energy usage patterns from smart meter data could be used as a non-intrusive way to understand the daily habits of people with illnesses such as dementia, Parkinson’s and depression. Irregularities in these patterns could alert relatives or healthcare workers that the person may need additional support.

What has been your path to power?

 

After a few interesting early roles at the Lord Chancellor’s Office and the Medical Research Council in London, after moving back to Brighton, I did what most people in Brighton do and got a job at American Express. I then moved to Royal & Sun Alliance where I managed to get onto its global digital leadership initiative at the peak of the dot.com boom. This led to me getting a job in the fledgling e-commerce team and a lead role in the creation of MORE TH>N.

 

It was in this role that I cut my teeth on all things digital and data and set up the rest of my career. Then, a love of all things French led me to EDF Energy where I headed up first the acquisition and then the customer marketing teams, taking a lead role in re-launching the brand, building the direct and digital marketing capability and introducing Zingy to the world. I also had the pleasure of leading the activation of our sponsorship of the 2012 Olympics.

 

For the last four years, I’ve led the smart technology team, with a focus on the smart metering roll-out, which spans digital, IT, data, operations, marketing and, for the first time in my career, physical assets.

 

What is the proudest achievement of your career to date?

 

My proudest achievement has been to form a number of highly-motivated, high-performing teams that have done some great things, while hopefully having some fun along the way. A recent highlight has been to turn around EDF Energy’s smart metering programme which is a key part of one of the UK’s biggest infrastructure projects and is opening up a massive data opportunity.

 

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

 

Luckily, one of my key career goals is very much linked to our purpose of “Helping Britain achieve net zero” to really add value to society. Currently, my work in upgrading the UK’s energy infrastructure so that it’s fit for electric vehicles, the shift to renewables, etc, is doing just that!

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?

 

At EDF, data and analytics are 100% aligned to the business. This is helped by our hub and spoke model which ensures a very close relationship between teams, and having data and analytics people embedded in the business further ensures that everyone is aligned. Also, there is a culture in the data and analytics community of thinking like the rest of the business and having the same goals.

 

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 couple of things that have worked at EDF are: 1) having multi-disciplined teams with data specialists mixed in - this helps the data people understand the business better and helps spread data literacy across the business; and 2) investing in data training for non-data employees - this allows them to understand the value that data can bring to their business units.

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