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Dan Taffler, chief data officer, Medivet

Daniel Taffler

Path to power

I’ve always enjoyed analysing business problems, finding solutions and then driving them to successful completion. Although I started my career in management accounting, it wasn’t long before I was using more and more data and tools and I knew I had to change roles to specialise in these new areas.

 

Doing an MBA at Manchester Business School proved a useful way to bridge this combination of skills and experience into data and analytics leadership roles, where I led and built functions, capabilities and strategy.

 

Throughout all of this I’ve worked on my emotional intelligence through personal development and coaching – I think soft skills are an extremely important accompaniment to technical ones (and still often overlooked).

 

What is the proudest achievement of your career to date?

Developing and delivering a data and analytics strategy for Co-op’s food business, including analytics products with an eight-figure lifetime value.

 

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

Business leaders who manage to create positive change and commercial impact without sacrificing their humanity.

 

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

Expected: political instability here and elsewhere round the world. AI and machine learning still not fully reaching their potential in business. Unexpected (but welcome): discussions about mental health issues in the media and society in general. Business culture becoming more human-centric – more working from home, parental leave, charity fundraising etc.

 

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

I expect platforms and systems to be more product-led to place greater capabilities in the hands of business users. This will change both the structure of the industry and how data and analytics teams support business functions. There will be more of a focus on governance, enablement and self-serve capabilities, but also the popularising of more specialist roles (such as data product managers).

 

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

The biggest opportunity I can see is for data literacy (and even an appreciation of basic statistics) to become as ubiquitous as mobile phones in the UK population. We’re an advanced digital economy in some ways (like online shopping), but we lag behind in some other important areas. I was surprised to hear that Iran’s school syllabus includes a lot more statistics at the country’s equivalent of GCSE level than we do in the UK, for example.

 

If we could use emerging data and technology to find better ways of teaching data, technology (and stats), I think this virtuous cycle could create new disruptive businesses in the UK and help us punch above our weight on the global stage.

 

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

I would say the biggest issue in digital transformation is actually making sure that people are considered ahead of tech challenges. We still live in a world where data is sometimes seen as a purely technical consideration and then businesses wonder why their transformation programmes don’t land properly with users or fail to deliver expected benefits.

 

A group of engaged users with deep knowledge of business processes and desired outcomes can accomplish amazing things working with a data team, even if they only have basic tools to hand.

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