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Dan Robertson, group chief data officer, SSE

Dan Robertson

Path to power

I started in data and analytics in the 90s and it has kept my interest ever since with constant technology advances and functional coverage growth which never seem to stop. I have worked in different industries, for a software house, for a management consultancy and the last 15 years in-house heading up BI/analytics teams, building towards heading up the BI and analytics strategy for Vodafone Group and now my current role as group chief data officer for SSE.

 

In my time across different clients and industries, I have seen many large organisations that are a long way from data driven and in fact often struggle to deliver basic business intelligence. My observation is that this is often due to a piecemeal approach to data and analytics and has been the reason that I have built my approach around setting a business vision for analytics and establishing the strategy for how to become a data driven organisation to enable that vision.

 

What is the proudest achievement of your career to date?

My roles leading strategic change in data and analytics across large group organisations have been the greatest challenges, so I have picked from one of those. During my time at Vodafone, I built a global community of data and analytics architects with representatives from over 20 countries. This community had voluntary membership and resulted in a pooling of some excellent experience and expertise in the data and analytics space. The collaboration was excellent, and the end result was a co-created Vodafone reference architecture, which would then go on to be the basis of a Vodafone data warehouse reusable product.

 

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

In terms of inspiration, I often refer back to one of my managers at Vodafone, who delivered one of the world’s largest ERP implementations across the Vodafone Group. He helped me with guidance on global roll-outs, but, possibly more importantly, how to influence executive level stakeholders.

 

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

No year ever seems to pan out how it’s supposed to. The trick is to be able to flex and adapt as things around you change. The SSE organisation has gone through a year of implementing a significant group restructure, which has introduced new stakeholders to engage, and introduced an opportunity to refresh our data driven strategies and roadmaps.

 

Elsewhere across our group in the Networks division, industry regulator Ofgem initiated guidance for network operators to publish a digitalisation strategy, which has allowed us to assess the linkage between a data driven strategy and digitalisation strategy.

 

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

Based on my experience working with our networks division on a strategy for digitalisation, I would expect more organisations to start transforming in this way and I think that will introduce further demands for companies to ensure they have data and analytics capabilities that can support this.

 

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

AI will introduce significant opportunities for business and society and optimistically, I would like to hope that the biggest opportunity would be the creation of more free time for people and maybe even a four day week. However, the culture change required to support such a shift goes way beyond the already difficult task of changing one company’s culture.

 

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

The availability of skills will be the biggest challenge to ensuring data is at the heart of our digital transformation strategy. Making sure our businesses are data driven to enable a digital transformation will require a maturing of data management, continuous data innovation and agile data delivery capabilities, which means an increase in skilled resource recruitment and development. Increasing business literacy and data consumption skills will also be key.

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