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9. Roberto Maranca, vice-president, data excellence, Schneider Electric

Roberto Maranca

Path to power

Some 26 years ago, almost to the day, I walked out of “Federico II” Naples University with a master’s in aeronautical engineering, a big achievement for someone with a more scholastic background of Latin, Greek and Philosophy.

 

Sadly, I have never worked as an engineer, but I still managed to collect a few blue chip names for my professional crest: Nissan, Ford, General Electric, Lloyds Banking Group and now Schneider Electric. For a couple of decades, I have explored all the corners of the IT world from mainframes to business intelligence, from security to IT governance, but the call of data was growing around me stronger and so one day, six years ago, I decided to become a data professional.

 

After a couple of chief data officer roles, firstly in GE and then in Lloyds, my current role at Schneider Electric is dedicated to design, implement and sustain the data revolution.

 

What is the proudest achievement of your career to date?

Having penned the first Data Charter for Schneider Electric, based on five simple principles of good deeds for data (governance, standardisation, resilience, compliance and, of course, ethics), I have been asked to contribute to the refresh of the company Principle of Responsibilities (Schneider’s code of conduct), which for the first time includes a principle about ethical use of data.

 

Who is your role model or the person you look to for inspiration?

Socrates, Plato and Aristoteles, yes, the Greek philosophers. As data people, the challenges we face have been with mankind since the beginning; those are the ones that are inherent to all humans, with all our amazing virtues and deplorable flaws.

 

Did 2019 turn out the way you expected? If not, in what ways was it different?

Like every new year it started with a lot of enthusiasm and ambition, but I think a lot of data people have been reminded, once again, that what we do is hard and by all means it is not in the mainstream of our businesses. The phrase “culture eats strategy for breakfast” has never been more apposite.

 

What do you expect 2020 to be like for the data and analytics industry?

Hopefully this (because it didn’t happen in 2019) is the year in which we will stop thinking that there is an AI panacea that will magic up all our long-standing problems and will embrace the fact that converting to a data driven culture is exactly that: cultural change.

 

Data and technology are changing business, the economy and society – what do you see as the biggest opportunity emerging from this?

The advent of advanced knowledge engineering and semantic technology should, in the medium term, unlock incredible opportunities for optimisation of resources and efficiency. However, that progress will only be good, if at the same time a stronger push for data sovereignty will have created products to reduce the imbalance of data management power between the corporations and the citizens.

 

What is the biggest tech challenge you face in ensuring data is at the heart of your digital transformation strategy?

A truly automated and truly intelligent data discovering, classifying and cataloguing tool.

 

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