How is your organisation using data and analytics to support the corporate vision and purpose?
JLR’s "customer-first" strategy sees data and analytics underpinning the business’ ability to deliver great products, but most recently data and analytics has had the greatest impact in delivery of the business transformation agenda.
We’re putting data at the heart of the transformation, making it a key part of the biggest transformation programmes. By doing so, we leverage the momentum of change and are able to embed data capability and data-led decision making right from the start. We’re influencing how important parts of the business are designed and it’s resulting in huge impact in the uptake of analytics and changing the way the business engages with data.
2020 was a year like no other - how did it impact on your planned activities and what unplanned ones did you have to introduce?
The unprecedented events of 2020 had a hugely disruptive impact on the automotive industry. Operating as an internal consultancy, our Analytics Centre of Excellence was able to rapidly pivot, re-prioritising work plans towards critical issues.
Most noticeably we’ve experienced faster acceptance of innovation. One focus area has been plant operation restart planning. We quickly developed a new way of understanding demand signals and are now using graph database technology for rapid scenario planning. While developed as a reaction to the events of 2020, these step changes in capability are now here to stay.
Elsewhere in the inventory management space, within two weeks we were able to deploy tools for daily management. This was possible due to our brand of analytics which emphasises thinking and using brainpower to solve problems as opposed to an over-reliance on brute force technology. We’ve found this approach has increased our responsiveness, allowing us to more rapidly put effective solutions into place.
Looking forward to 2021, what are your expectations for data and analytics within your organisation?
I expect 2021 to be a significant year of growth for data and analytics at JLR. Through continued leverage of the transformation agenda, we expect to scale, embedding data and analytics deeper into the core business. Due to our success in 2020, I expect the data and analytics mindset to be more influential in defining organisational strategy. Our greatest challenge will be satisfying the demand for adoption.
Is data for good part of your personal or business agenda for 2021? If so, what form will it take?
My focus of positive action within the data community is in creating and supporting new careers. I strongly believe we need to increase opportunity and encourage more people into the field; both because of the huge opportunities for meaningful, satisfying careers and for UK businesses to remain internationally competitive.
Two of my favourite initiatives we recently started are the apprenticeship scheme and analytics ‘conversion’ course. The apprenticeship scheme provides a pathway into our profession for school leavers and the conversion channel is a first of its kind proprietary course we developed to retrain people into analytics. We’ve managed to bring some amazing people into the team, and we hope to expand further in 2021.
What has been your path to power?
Having studied engineering at the University of Nottingham, I took the well-trodden path into consultancy, joining EY. I trained as an accountant (and still have nightmares about the exams!) but soon specialised working in the business modelling and operational research team, where I got a fantastic education working on big corporate transactions and decision modelling projects.
I moved to KPMG to set up their Midlands analytics and modelling team and was lucky enough to help bring together a fantastic group of people, which is where I found my passion for delivering impact through growing teams and capability. I gained huge experience working with a wide variety of clients, from retailers to police forces, and I still love the challenge of a fresh problem to solve.
In 2016, I was given the opportunity to start-up the Analytics Centre of Excellence at JLR, developing and growing the team with a mission to deliver huge impact. Our reputation for delivering value is extremely strong but we’ve also developed the reputation as a hub of exceptional talent. My role has grown from focusing on the start up of the Centre to driving data and analytics into wider business transformation.
What is the proudest achievement of your career to date?
While the headline achievement of the Centre has been £300 million delivered over its three years of operation, I am most proud of the fact that this has been achieved with a team of around 40; many of whom started on our analytics graduate scheme. The pipeline of talent we’re creating is formidable and is now having an impact at both JLR and more widely. They are a talented group whose names I fully expect to appear in future DataIQ lists!
Tell us about a career goal or a purpose for your organisation that you are pursuing?
The events of 2020 have forced us to concentrate internally, but I have ambitions to widen collaboration with other business and institutes across the West Midlands region. There is traditionally a perceived risk of ‘brain drain’ to London and the South East, but the Midlands is quietly growing to become a strong centre of digital talent. Sharing and collaboration within the region will strengthen the offering, provide local opportunities, and generate innovation. Making a difference on this agenda is a key pursuit of mine.
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?
The automotive industry is going through unprecedented change in the face of environmental priorities and changing customer behaviours. Traditionally, the industry has largely been orientated around long vehicle programme cycles and culturally the fit between automotive and data is not especially natural. However, the disruptive forces and necessary speed of change mean data and analytics are now being embraced as significant part of the solution and the cultural gap is narrowing.
Whilst there are existing pockets of deep analytical expertise, there remain large areas that rely on more traditional approaches. The challenge is to broaden adoption, perhaps similar to the way lean/six sigma was embraced by European manufacturers several decades ago.
Alignment is necessary at both a strategic level and operationally with people. As a consequence, in delivering data and analytics we’ve found it necessary to develop expertise in change management and sharpened skills in understanding of motivations and perceptions of individual stakeholders – something I’d recommend for challenges in any industry.
What is your view on how to develop a data culture in an organisation, building out data literacy and creating a data-first mindset?
Building a data culture requires deep programmes of change. My philosophy is to work closely with focused areas of the business, delivering key projects, building data assets, and working with people to develop capability. The aim is to deliver immediate impact and enduring change through a body of work where the sum is greater than the parts.
This strategy of ‘incubation’ brings the business and data and analytics together with a shared vision and goals. Our biggest successes have been getting other teams to the ‘point of no return’, whereby they no longer need our full time support.