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Damian Smith, head of IT, England and Wales Cricket Board

Damian Smith

Path to power

I started my career in defence and then worked in consultancy for a number of meta data management and business intelligence companies. I then joined KPMG Consulting as a management consultant, working in telecoms, petro-chemical and exploration, investment banking and financial regulation. From there I went into London market insurance for several years before entering the field of consumer packaged goods.

 

My current remit includes high performance sports science and medicine systems in support of England’s elite cricket teams; venue and match-day experience for the international and domestic game; the recreational game for all players, coaches and officials; and the platforms that support the governance and management of the game, such as safeguarding, anti-corruption and anti-doping.

 

The common thread running through the organisations with which I’ve worked is that they are information-rich. I have taken great delight in being part of programmes that have transformed the way that organisations, and in some cases, whole sectors operate, whether that is in the field of financial regulation, or on the field of play.

 

What is the proudest achievement of your career to date?

I thought that the Women’s World Cup victory in 2017 would take some beating, where everything came together and women’s cricket penetrated the national consciousness to a similar extent as the men’s game: the team performed fantastically, the crowd was a sell-out with new audiences of children and families that hadn’t previously attended a cricket match, and a new generation of women and girls were inspired to pick up a bat and ball and play themselves.

 

However, the Men’s World Cup victory in 2019 was probably the most exciting cricket match ever to have been played. To be part of the team that delivered these events and to know that everything from the player performance systems through to the stadium wi-fi played a part in that success fills me with pride.

 

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

There are many people who inspire me: Working with elite athletes, you find people who are prepared to put everything out there and be judged and criticised by media and public, and occasionally face the consequences of very public failure, possibly on a global scale. The honesty these athletes have with themselves and in their interactions with others is humbling and something I aspire to. Also, in a sport run largely by volunteers, the lengths that some people go to ensure people can play and enjoy the sport they love can be truly astonishing.

 

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

Definitely as I’d hoped, but maybe not as I expected. Some of the most exciting developments were in the trickle down of technology and capability to the recreational cricketer from our expertise in elite performance. This is happening more and more as the use of cloud technology means there is a very low barrier to entry to provide sophisticated capability to grass roots cricketers and clubs.

 

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

I expect to see the continued adoption of machine learning to analyse data and provide pervasive insight in everything we do. More explainable ML, so that it is possible to understand how decisions are arrived at. And, as more people push at the edges, the rest of us will catch up as the mechanics of data and analytics becomes frictionless.

 

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

I believe that we will solve some really hard problems, such as new medicines and innovative approaches to tackling climate change, as our models become more sophisticated, and the speed at which we can process many different scenarios continues to increase. There are opportunities for legislation to catch up with what we are technically capable of, and for us to embed the consideration of the ethical implications of technological advances in the way we deliver systems.

 

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

With the technology improving all the time, one of our biggest challenges is keeping our suppliers and partners up to speed with the state of the art. We find that some of our suppliers are simply unaware that they can massively speed up their delivery times and improve the quality of their outcomes by adopting a few simple tools and technologies and some modern data management and project management practices.

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