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Adam Williamson, Commercial and customer analytics director, Jaguar Land Rover

Path to power

 

My first proper job was with US consultancy Urban Science, market analysis specialists for the automotive industry. I discovered the power of data visualisation and geo-location modelling, setting up a new reporting and analysis offering, building a client list which comprised of most UK manufacturers. I then made a move to direct marketing agencies, where the idea of influencing customer behaviour through data was beginning to take off. I spent 14 years in strategy and director roles working across a broad range of industries and clients with a wide variety of data prowess. This included seven years at Proximity London, leading one of the largest agency data operations in the UK. In 2013, I joined British Airways as head of customer data and analytics, where I set-up the data insight team to enhance customer experience and drive business decision-making across the global organisation. I have now come full circle by moving back to the automotive industry in 2017, joining Jaguar Land Rover to establish and develop its global customer and commercial analytics capability.

 

What has been the highlight of your career in the industry to date?

 

My current role - developing data driven strategies across the global reach of Jaguar Land Rover with a fantastic team and diverse set of stakeholders. This has involved conceiving and piloting new analytics initiatives with markets from all over the world and then scaling up the success stories. Also, creating a worldwide reporting and insight capability that is being embedded in to all our key commercial activities is an incredibly exciting challenge. There aren’t many jobs where you can measure the incremental value your team generates and drive business change for the better on this scale.

 

If you could give your younger self some advice about how to progress in this industry, what would it be?

 

The commercial skills are the key - always be a business person first (no matter how technical your job) and then, and only then an analyst.

 

Did 2018 turn out the way you expected? If not, in what ways was it different?

 

Encouraged by the big data revolution, organisations have been boosting their investment into analytics for some years and were at risk of levelling off. Although success stories were beginning to surface with greater frequency, this had been alongside headlines beginning to question whether the hype around big data had been worth it. I have seen little evidence of a slowdown despite the major pressures of Brexit and GDPR. Businesses early on in their data journey have remained committed and new players have continued to join or reboot their game. The explosion of technology continues at speed and will ultimately permeate more aspects of our life than we can imagine. There is so much more opportunity that will no doubt continue to drive the growth of the industry.

 

What do you expect 2019 to be like for the industry?

 

The ability for business to make healthy returns is coming under increasing pressure from all sides and the string of profit warnings that ended 2018 indicates we are in for a tough 2019. Numbers are going to be looked at and acted on with more energy than ever and analysts are in pole position to make a real difference here. Focusing on value generation opportunities and delivering them with plenty of vigour will be even more critical for analytics to be a credible force in this environment.

 

Talent and skills are always a challenge to find - how are you tackling this in your organisation?

 

As well as our dedicated graduate programme, growing our own and offering great career paths, it is crucial to have a great story to tell that both attracts and retains talent. We are on a journey that is about transformation as much as it is analytics. When combined with plenty of opportunities to try things out across the globe, own, influence and deliver them, it makes for an attractive proposition.

 

What aspect of data, analytics or their use are you most optimistic about and why?

 

I find it immensely rewarding and great fun to be part of a revolution that is still only in its infancy with much to pioneer. In my view, we are still at the beginning of a very exciting phase where there is a vast opportunity to transform how brands interact with customers and prospects and I love the challenge of enabling big companies to provide that “local shopkeeper” feel to customers through personalisation.

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