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Adam Williamson, director of commercial and customer analytics, Jaguar Land Rover

Adam Williamson

Path to power

My first proper job was with US consultancy Urban Science, market analysis specialists for the automotive industry. It was there I discovered the power of data visualisation and geo-location modelling, setting up a new reporting and analysis offering, and building a client list which comprised 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, establishing the data insight team to enhance customer experience and drive business decision-making across the global organisation. In 2017, I came full circle by moving back to the automotive industry, joining Jaguar Land Rover to set up and develop the global customer and commercial analytics capability.

 

What is the proudest achievement of your career 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 into 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.

 

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

I have been inspired by a wide range of people, from my team, past clients and colleagues to bosses, industry leaders and family and friends. You never find everything wrapped up in one individual, but I enjoy observing and learning from everyone around me, then trying out different aspects of what seems to be effective.

 

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

The ability for business to make healthy returns came under increasing pressure from all sides (greater competition, slowing global demand, and Brexit), although the string of profit warnings that ended 2018 did not continue as much as I expected and the stock market defied gravity.

 

The stories of brands setting up new departments to leverage analytics certainly slowed down, with greater consideration about how best to invest and integrate analytics in to the organisational structure. Nevertheless, there has been a relentless demand on analytics to find efficiencies and new opportunities with recruitment still a challenge.

 

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

Gartner predicts 80% of marketeers will abandon personalisation by 2025, as companies give up the challenge of data management and fail to demonstrate enough success in this area. I am not so pessimistic. As organisations become more analytically mature, activity will no doubt be rationalised and to an extent refocused as learnings become more robust. However, I struggle to see us starting to slide into obscurity, even in the realms of personalisation. There is still too much untapped opportunity and benefits to be gained.

 

I expect Dominic Cumming’s experiment to inject more “weirdos” (aka data scientists and the like) into the civil service will end with mixed results, assuming it makes any headway. Central government is late to the party and has an opportunity to learn from the mistakes of this rather dated strategy previously deployed in the private sector.

 

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

I would like to think it will save us more time across all aspects of our lives, so we can focus on “living wide”, with richer and broader experiences. The only problem is that this time quickly gets traded for greater productivity and doing more of the same on “fast forward”, rather than developing ourselves and contributing to society more broadly. That’s the real opportunity.

 

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

An inordinate amount of energy is spent on getting data technology up and running without enough attention to its purpose, how it will enable actionable insight and the cultural shift needed to take proper advantage of the capability. The biggest challenge is on the “how” business will transform to ensure adoption and realisation of the benefits, but too often the focus falls on the more tangible and immediate “what” of delivering the IT.

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