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Caroline Worboys, chief operating officer, Outra

Caroline Worboys

Path to power

I have over 30 years’ experience as an executive in early stage start-ups, large corporates, a global agency and a not-for-profit, during which time I have been fortunate enough to have worked with all types of data, different technologies and a great deal of analytics.

 

My roles have always involved strategy, logic and creativity; it wasn’t all neatly planned out, but it has worked. I started my own business, partly as being a working mum wasn’t that easy in the industry at that time. I sold that business to News International and after eight years we sold it again to what we then evolved to become Callcredit (now TransUnion).

 

After selling Callcredit to private equity, I joined Wunderman to lead data and insights, firstly in EMEA and then globally from New York. On returning, I spent a year with the Dunnhumby founders at Starcount prior to starting Outra with Simon Hay, the ex-CEO of Dunnhumby. I have led several mergers and acquisitions and keep my interest in how data is influencing the shape and performance of businesses by investing in data-centric organisations, many of whom are very successful, such as Comply Advantage, Elvie and Market Finance.

 

What is the proudest achievement of your career to date?

There are many, normally they involve sealing a deal, however, the first time I sold my own business has to be up there. I am most proud of the students we brought into the industry through the work at the IDM and DMA and the countless people who I have worked with who have gone on to reach their full potential.

 

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

I don’t have one particular role model or person I look to. I like a variety of original thinkers, and the inspiration and curiosity of the younger generations who bring new perspectives.

 

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

On a personal note, my hope was that we could solve complex business problems and create business outcomes, faster and more cost effectively, using data science techniques, like deep learning – and we are. With so much hype around machine learning and AI, it really is a question of getting past the hypothesis to real action and I am pleased that we managed to move beyond conversation to action and deployment.

 

At an industry level, I was interested to see how the GDPR impact played out and am encouraged to see that it has improved the overall landscape with some organisations taking a strong lead in educating consumers, like The Guardian and Channel 4.

 

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

I think the impact of e-privacy and potential changes to the way data is used in digital is going to be the most fascinating impact, closely followed by where the UK will stand in terms of data privacy following Brexit.

 

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

The sophisticated use of data and technology is now a reality of modern working life. The real leaders in sophisticated use do have competitive advantage and momentum, however, the ability of organisations to make better decisions to drive the right outcomes is available to all. This is thanks to cloud computing and data science capability, but it only works if the right culture and talent exists within the organisation. To be sophisticated, you must move beyond traditional analytics for business intelligence, campaign reporting and advertising and instead use data and technology to help your business predict outcomes rather than just report on history. With all of this comes a need for good judgement and clarity of data ethics, including the explainability of models and algorithms.

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

Business wise, the biggest challenge is using data to drive transformation that will affect the bottom line, drive the outcomes the board needs to deliver on in order to modernise and transform their business for the next decade.

 

Technically, this is often the integration and engineering of data. Doing this while staying true to the business problem and ensuring the use of the right data science techniques to answer the challenge is very difficult. This requires senior resource to understand the business challenge, working with hybrid teams to ensure that what is happening inside the box will actually deliver against the brief.

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