How is your organisation using data and analytics to support the corporate vision and purpose?
Our purpose is reimagining energy for people and our planet. We want to help the world reach net zero and improve people’s lives. We will aim to dramatically reduce carbon in our operations and in our production, and grow new low carbon businesses, products and services. Digital innovation continues to play a major role in helping us to deliver this and it is underpinned by good data and analytical insights.
2020 was a year like no other - how did it impact on your planned activities and what unplanned ones did you have to introduce?
In some areas it stimulated accelerated delivery. We have a vast global footprint and a diverse workforce, so it was important to us that we supported each other’s wellbeing during these unprecedented times. We have found smarter ways to manage and use data, to innovate, driving standardisation and introduced new technology to streamline what we do.
Looking forward to 2021, what are your expectations for data and analytics within your organisation?
The imperative remains, like many organisations we will continue to invest in data and analytics to understand and improve our operations, our markets and to deliver innovative products and services for our customers.
What has been your path to power?
Timing is everything… I didn’t set out to become a CDO, but I feel so fortunate to hold this position at a time when there is a recognition, across industry, that data and analytics can drive real value and differentiation. It’s a really exciting time to be working in data and analytics. Organisations are taking this seriously and are investing accordingly.
My career started some three decades ago. Faced with a real business challenge in a trade and investment setting, I was tasked with bringing together a diverse set of data, using mainframe technology. This forced me to develop at pace a set of business and technical skills across the whole data and analytics lifecycle, from data create to analytics consumption, driving value and insight.
There is no substitute for hands-on experience. Gaining this expertise in my career has proved invaluable, it is formed from first principles, which I still draw upon today, even though technology has come on leaps and bounds.
The 2000s saw the introduction of analytics on the web alongside, consolidation and convergence of big tools vendors. This allowed the start of real data and analytics democratisation, it put a real spotlight on what could be achieved.
I learnt quickly about hype, and that technology advances alone would not deliver on the promises…the missing ingredient was people. A new generation of knowledge workers was required, alongside a more deliberate strategy and value-based execution plan to drive buy-in, build belief and secure investment.
This was a major turning point in my career, going on to lead the data and analytics strategy for some of the largest and most complex organisations across the globe, across multiple industries.
What is the proudest achievement of your career to date?
Delivering my first global and analytics application to 100 locations in 32 countries for a global consumer-goods company. What made it challenging was the diversity of languages, currencies, systems and non-standard ways of working.
There was an enormous prize at stake - how do we optimise supply chain planning, warehousing production, distribution, and finance, and do this against a backdrop of tight timescales and budgetary constraints?
The business outcome was delivered, putting energy into the less exciting, but critical foundational aspects of data governance, alongside pushing the envelope in terms of possibility by deploying the state-of-the-art analytical interface.
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?
Good data foundations are critical for any organisation if they are to achieve operational and analytical success. This has been a theme throughout my career and requires a sustained and resilient focus. I am fortunate to have worked for organisations who encourage and support a good data culture and promote data literacy.
Working on the right things which deliver the most data-related value, which remove pain, improve efficiency and drive a lower cost of compliance is really important. I cannot emphasise enough the criticality and value which a collaboratively authored business-value roadmap will drive. Fundamentally, it forces an organisation to be deliberate and to converge on what is important.
What is your view on how to develop a data culture in an organisation, building out data literacy and creating a data-first mindset?
Firstly, data is a profession and needs to be recognised as such, as you would with accountancy. It is not a single skill-set or competency, it has to recognise several capabilities across business and IT, from strategy and planning, integration, data governance and modelling, through to advanced data sciences. Because it is multi-faceted, you have to focus on building communities of interest if you are to build collaboration and succeed and advance together.
Driving data literacy requires people with passion, resilience and endorsement and sponsorship from the very top of the organisation.
At the same time, it must be reinforced that data and analytics is indeed a profession that requires its own career framework and structure, and approaches to talent management, retention and attraction in a world where demand for these skills is high and availability in the marketplace is low.