How is your organisation using data and analytics to support the corporate vision and purpose?
The scale of usage is certainly increasing as we are shifting from ad hoc, spot examples of data exploitation to more "at scale". With the increasing profile, awareness and capability surrounding machine learning and analytics, data exploitation is at the front of mind for many of our executives. We have machine learning and analytics use cases mobilised across the group to support business objectives as we enter the next strategic cycle. The major focus remains, more than ever, on clients and customers and enabling the group to further support and manage them through these uncertain times.
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 has been a question often asked this year, but I’d say our planned data and analytics activities remained relevant and important for the group, but had to prioritise more robustly to ensure we were focusing on immediate demands caused or accelerated by the pandemic.
At first colleagues had to adjust to new way of working, co-location was absent, ideation together was difficult, and life was just generally more intense and challenging, but I would say we are "over the hump".
There was a steep rise in demand for data sourcing, reporting and business analytics to support increased regulatory requests and the need for internal reporting and trending during the pandemic. This in turn has led to a focus on how we wrap more agile governance around data access and sharing to accommodate increased volumes and shorter turnaround.
An even greater focus on customer and client digital journeys was evident as we saw reduction in branch access and greater reliance on online banking, causing us to accelerate our future thinking and design.
Looking forward to 2021, what are your expectations for data and analytics within your organisation?
I’m hoping for even bigger leaps in 2021! We’ve landed our first truly group wide data and analytics strategy with buy-in from all the top executives, including the board. The sponsorship, the ambition and the opportunity is there.
While pressing on with analytics deliveries and continuing to embed data management by design, I will have particular focus on the data culture and operating model to enable an embedded joined up approach across the group. Operating data and analytics in the cloud is also high on the agenda, where there is the possibility of reimagining the way we do things and not just looking at how we can make today’s operations, quicker and cheaper.
Is data for good part of your personal or business agenda for 2021? If so, what form will it take?
Very much so and it is firm fixture within our group data and analytics strategy. The bank has always been focused on how we can help wider society; even during the last three years our motto has been about "Helping Britain Prosper". We have a few topics on the radar for 2021, including areas of sustainability, customer wellbeing, national indexes and more.
What has been your path to power?
It is fair to say that I’ve always been in data, with foundations built at university where I studied Computer Science. Having practical experience from day one has been invaluable as it hasn’t been just theory and concept. I have the scars to prove it! There were certainly some intense times as a coder when data and analytics wasn’t as widespread and accessible as it is today - Google was still establishing, so I had a lot less help with the answers!
My career at EY, Accenture and HSBC opened the door to end to end data and analytics experience, mainly across financial services. Ranging from being an established coder to running large delivery programmes and designing policies and strategies, I gained a wealth of experience across clients. Establishing a chief data office became a key focus of mine around ten years ago as it began to emerge in the industry when data governance and data management started to run hot.
My time at Lloyds Banking Group has allowed me to bring all my experiences and skills to bare where there was a need to re-establish and evolve the chief data office that was at the centre of a significant digital transformation. This opportunity has allowed me to lead a directorate covering data and analytics strategy, data innovation, data management, data culture and machine learning product delivery, playing a major role in embedding data firmly in the group’s strategy.
What is the proudest achievement of your career to date?
An easy one as it has only just happened! Embedding DCAM as a board-level metric and achieving the industry leading target. This came with much profile, expectation, pressure, and operational mechanics to manage effectively across the group. From where we started and what we achieved in under three years was a huge accomplishment that I feel proud of. Moreover, it really was a team effort where I’m thankful to be surrounded by dedicated colleagues and a great team who were committed and wanted to make a difference. It was a challenging journey and took immense collaboration, but we got there.
Tell us about a career goal or a purpose for your organisation that you are pursuing?
I am striving for a federation of data and analytics across the group, whereby reliance on the centre becomes less and there is greater self-sufficiency in the business. We need to equip the group with the right tools, skills, frameworks etc, to manage and use data effectively, such that data and analytics is integrated into the way we do business. This certainly doesn’t mean the chief data office is no longer needed, but the purpose and shape will change over time. I want to ensure the right work happens in the right place and compensating central capabilities are minimised.
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?
Alignment is certainly increasing and at a fast pace. With a large, complex, and federated organisation, it takes time to mature this, but we now have our first group wide data and analytics strategy that has been aligned and agreed with the business executives.
This is a good indication that we are heading in the right direction and the business is placing a lot more importance in the role that data and analytics can play in unlocking value.
Within financial services, it is quite similar, where there is a focus on opportunities through machine learning and AI to drive business value, having spent the last few years concentrating on data governance and data management from a risk perspective. Data governance remains fundamental, but we are seeing the business take increased interest in exploiting the data and wanting to explore how advances in technology can enable or accelerate this.
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 could spend ages on this but ultimately leadership and executive awareness is important to drive behaviours top down. Tailor messaging to the audience and make sure you answer the "so what?" or "what does it mean to me?" questions. I’ve seen people completely turn off when this isn’t done. Integrate disciplines into the way you naturally do things so that data management and analytics aren’t an afterthought, ie, they are embedded by design. Incentivisation can work wonders, but this needs to be both positive and negative, depending on the culture of the organization, until you have all the right behaviours and ways of working in place.