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Will Lowe, chief data officer, Engine

Will Lowe, chief data officer, Engine

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

 

Engine is an independent, integrated agency with the purpose of future-proofing organisations, helping hundreds of clients across the private and public sectors with their challenges. We help

answer challenges as wide ranging as: help me re-think my business; help me make better decisions; help me design experiences; help me connect with culture; help me sell more. The use of data, analytics and technology is integral in how Engine overcomes all these challenges, helping our clients to be fit for the future.

 

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

 

I consider myself very fortunate in 2020 as, while many organisations have been significantly negatively impacted by the pandemic, the demand for Engine’s services across data, analytics, martech and CRM has grown. It has been far from plain sailing, but overall the organisations we help have doubled down on customer insight and direct communication with their customers about how Covid-19 changed how they operate.

 

Organisations investing in direct-to-consumer channels was already a trend and the events of 2020 has accelerated it. We’ve enjoyed the challenge of delivering some large, transformational data and digital platform projects, setting up organisations for a more efficient and effective future.

 

We became busier at the same time as all working remotely and found new ways of working that allowed us to deliver more and maintain quality. The team has been fantastic all year, although I’ve personally missed seeing colleagues and clients. I’m looking forward to seeing people physically, not digitally in 2021.

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

 

I’m hoping to be able to build on the success of 2020. Engine has a long history in helping government departments transform digitally and, in 2021, we’ll be supporting many departments with joined-up data and digital transformation programmes. These will make a huge difference to how they operate and we’ll also support them in making the crucial changes to culture, systems, processes and ways of working to get maximum value.

 

For our private sector clients facing what is likely to be a tough year for consumer spending, our focus will continue to be on how to get value from their data and technology platforms, proving the value in incremental sales.

 

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

 

One of the reasons I’ve enjoyed my career in data is the constant drive for efficiency and effectiveness and how that feels fundamentally good. In 2020, we developed a machine learning model which is enabling the National Citizen Service (NCS) to deliver more and better experiences to more young people, while saving NCS precious budget. In 2021, we’ll be helping the Department for Education overcome its data and reporting challenges and enabling it to use data to improve the lives of teachers and enhance learning for pupils.

What has been your path to power?

 

Throughout my career I have moved in order to learn. I began in brand marketing working for Nestlé and Diageo which gave me broad marketing experience. However, I became increasingly frustrated at the lack of effective measurement for many activities.

 

I moved to dunnhumby, attracted by the richness of the Clubcard database at a time when Tesco accounted for £1 in every £7 spent in Britain. I learned about loyalty, CRM and how to transform businesses around customer data. I worked with global retailers and global brands, being the voice of the customer, helping them to implement data-driven decisions, with robust measurement to demonstrate the value. Finally, I worked with Tesco globally on how to get return on investment from loyalty and on monetising its data and media estate.

 

I moved to TransUnion as managing director of the marketing division to learn more about digital marketing, specifically the channels of search, social and digital display. I gained experience of working with Google, Facebook, DMPs and digital data.

 

I’m now the chief data officer for Engine, helping businesses to transform around digital and data using our experience in data, analytics, technology, personalised communications and organisation and cultural change.

 

What is the proudest achievement of your career to date?

 

To have kept learning, which has meant taking roles where I’ve had experience of some elements, but others have been completely new. Marketing, like most things, has developed so much in the last 20 years and this is making the role of a CMO or CDO even more broad, while requiring depth in each technical area. My advice to everyone is to keep learning.

 

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

 

I’m involved in Engine’s commitment to being more representative, diverse and inclusive. I’m leading on how Engine offers a growing number of apprenticeship opportunities across the business including within my own area of data and analytics. The challenge of starting a career for young people is getting harder, so I hope to be able to offer as many jobs as possible, with great training and future prospects in the data industry.

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 Engine, they are very closely aligned, separate teams but part of the same bigger team, working together across our clients. I appreciate this isn’t always the case, particular in larger organisations where often the teams are separate and don’t have aligned objectives. One is often the enabler of the other and therefore can become a blocker, and the divide can create tension.

 

This is reduced when organisations have a published data strategy and a supporting technology strategy, written to deliver the overall objectives of the organisation. This unites teams with a common understanding and purpose and allows them to work together on the critical projects to deliver the required customer and business outcomes.

 

What is your view on how to develop a data culture in an organisation, building out data literacy and creating a data-first mindset?

 

Every organisation is different, but I broadly follow a 4Es model when creating a data culture:

  • Envision - painting a picture of what the end ideal state is; people need to know what good looks like from the start and where they are going.
  • Empower - support people across the organisation to make progress towards that vision; transformation can’t be the role of a few people in a change team, you need the organisation to move together.
  • Enable - give people the right tools, processes and ways of working to use the data in decisions and actions, to change outcomes and to have measurement in place to understand the impact.
  • Energise - focus on developing some quick wins to champion, making as many people as possible feel part of the success, set objectives around using data, running tests, measuring performance and creating change. Incubate a performance mindset, top-down and bottom-up through the organisation.
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