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Alex Lorke, chief data officer (interim) and IT director platforms, Royal Mail Group

Alex Lorke

Path to power

I am CDO at Royal Mail and a non-executive director of two subsidiaries, Storefeeder and Intersoft, as well as the IT director for strategic application development services including royalmail.com, postal mobile devices, integration and DevOps.

 

I am currently focused on the creation of the group’s digital twin, a cloud-based data platform of core business activities to drive actionable insight, task automation and business transformation. My combined data and digital experience enable me to drive value creation through data and data science strategies.

 

During my time at Royal Mail, I have led the creation and adoption of key technology transformations, including the incubation and subsequent company-wide adoption of cloud services, agile and DevOps working practices and bringing data and digital engineering in-house.

 

Prior to Royal Mail, I worked at several businesses and industries, including Thomson-Reuters, Virgin Cars, Ford, Vodafone and Logica. At Thomson-Reuters I learned about data and product management for investment banking and stock market trading. Virgin Cars was a start-up, where I had the privilege to build the back-office IT solution from incubation to the first three months of trading, while at Ford I earned my stripes as a developer, database designer and team leader.

 

What is the proudest achievement of your career to date?

In 2015, I was part of the team leading the acquisition of Storefeeder.com. I subsequently took ownership of the joint product development of Click & Drop, an ecommerce fulfilment management solution for SMEs. In 2019, we exceeded revenues of £300 million and are on track to hit £500 million annual revenues.

 

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

The two people who have inspired me most in recent times are Yuval Noah Harari, with his books Sapiens and Homo Deus, and Matthew Philip Syed’s take on diverse thinking and the concept of rebel ideas.

 

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

In 2019, I had the opportunity to take on the role of CDO, which was unexpected but opportune. At Royal Mail, our data and digital strategies have been converging over the past three years and topics such as cloud, digital enablement, innovation, data science and engineering span both disciplines.

 

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

I think the corporate mainstream is shifting rapidly towards value creation through data insight and automation. The tools and capabilities to acquire and model large scale data assets have matured to a point where data science, machine learning and data products can deliver sustainable business value at scale.

 

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

For me, the democratisation of data is my biggest hope. Customers, employees and citizens should have access to unbiased information to allow them to be informed, engaged and empowered to make the best decisions for themselves and the institutions they represent.

 

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

For Royal Mail, data is an extremely valuable asset, as we are the trusted delivery partner for every citizen and every business in the UK and an ever-growing customer base abroad.

 

As a result, we have two heavily competing objectives. Firstly, to ensure this data is managed in a compliant, secure and responsible manner that will allow us to continue to earn our customers’ trust. At the same time, data assets such as the postcode directory are data products our customers expect us to make commercially available. Balancing trust and commercial interests remain my biggest challenge.

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