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Ben Cockrell, head of strategy and data, ekino

Ben Cockrell

Path to power

I started my career in IT, running server infrastructure and providing user support for a small data and CRM agency. Over the past 16 years, I’ve taken on a range of agency roles, including account management, consultancy, project management, data planning, strategy and leadership positions. I’ve also worked on data strategy for some major brands, including BT, Dyson, Nissan, Marriott, GSK, British Airways and Maersk.

 

This variety forced me to develop a strong problem solving skillset – I’d often find myself working on a new type of client challenge or leading a pitch in an industry vertical that I hadn’t worked on before – so I became highly experienced at working though solutions from a fresh angle using first principles. As my career progressed, I worked on ever bigger client opportunities – from BT Broadband CRM and analytics in 2004 to Dyson’s commercial global CRM solution in 2010 and BA’s “Know Me” programme in 2013.

 

I’ve spent the past four years working at ekino, which is part of the Havas Group. The focus of my role is Maersk, where we have an omnichannel customer first vision to transform the whole media, CRM and data insight model.

 

What is the proudest achievement of your career to date?

I’m incredibly proud of what we have achieved at ekino. When I joined in December 2015, there was no data function at all. Fast forward five years and my team is approaching 20 staff with expertise across data and customer strategy, data analytics, marketing technology, data science and AI.

 

We are focused on using data, people, process and technology to deliver one-to-one customer experiences at scale. This means aligning business functions towards the same goal – bringing all the digital and offline touchpoints together into a single framework, which will ultimately be powered by AI and omni-channel decision engines.

 

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

Elon Musk inspires me. From founding Paypal, to turning rocket industry on its head with SpaceX, Elon has a clear vision of how whole industries will change and an ambition and approach to problem solving which enables him to address the changes that others believe are impossible to solve.

 

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

In 2019 we saw big shifts in the scale of ambition from our clients – setting a clear vision to use data and technology to deliver a best-in-class customer first experience. At the same time, the existing challenges remain – facilitating the alignment of business functions such as product, sales, marketing, customer service, business intelligence and IT, to achieve a common goal. There was also a lot of hype around AI adoption, rather than being a panacea, we have deployed it in some very focused and practical applications - helping to generate real business efficiencies.

 

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

For those of us who have been preaching for the last decade about transforming the below-the-line customer experience model, 2020 is going to be a special year. Within organisations, we are seeing the beginning of a unification of corporate vision, technology, data and, most importantly, people. That means we can move away from the concept of the multichannel campaign and embrace a paradigm shift which leads to an increased focus on delivering value from corporate data. The key to our success is proving incremental value along the journey, aligning our ambitions to the myriad existing business initiatives within the organisation.

 

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

The greatest benefit will come from delivering relevant, engaging and rewarding experiences. From a marketing and customer service perspective, we have an opportunity to use data and technology to ensure that every interaction is efficient, benefits the individual customer and provides the greatest value possible. There is also so much more information in our everyday lives compared to ten years ago. Every minute of peoples’ time has become more valuable, so we have a duty to use that time and energy in the best way possible.

 

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

The clients we work with are often global and complex. Driving the required changes from the C-suite, across the business functions, all the way down to individual operations, is hard. Problems are not solved by selecting a piece of technology, they are solved by the capability in combination with the underlying data and organisational foundations that enable business to quickly interact and move up the data value chain. This approach is essential to truly leverage the business value from the vast amounts of data available. It also means banishing silos and developing a consistent approach and vision across the organisation.

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