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Paul Davison, head of data, Royal Mail

Paul Davison

Path to power

I think like a lot of people in our industry my entrance into the data world was in some ways accidental but also exciting. I started my career building a database for a small print broker before joining Claritas 20 years ago. I had the pleasure of working across many different areas of the business, including Claritas Interactive and leading the financial services sales team. Claritas was sold to Acxiom and at the same time merged with Consodata and I stayed with the newly combined business and enjoyed several years of sales success before joining Royal Mail as a data consultant in 2009.

 

During the following six years, I supported organisations in making the most of their direct marketing activities by helping them to navigate the most vital part of the DM puzzle: data. As part of this, I spent time managing the workflow into Royal Mail’s data and media planning services and helped build the solutions that formed part of the original MarketReach proposition.

 

As is often said, once you’re in the data world there’s no escape and this is something I’m delighted about as I’m currently leading Royal Mail’s data services division, a role that enables me to focus on bringing a wide range of data solutions to the market.

 

What is the proudest achievement of your career to date?

From a commercial perspective, consistently being among the top salespeople during my time with Acxiom and securing one of the largest single data contracts the business ever signed.

 

But while commercial achievement is always satisfying, one of the moments that made me feel proudest was being involved in the speed mentoring sessions hosted by the Advertising Association a couple of years ago as part of its LEAD event. This presented the opportunity to talk with hundreds of students, graduates and new talent entering the ad industry and sharing thoughts, views and opinions, while answering a number of sometimes very challenging questions.

 

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

I don’t have one role model but more a selection of inspirational people I’ve been fortunate to work with who have demonstrated characteristics that I’ve admired and have since tried my best to emulate in my own approach to work.

 

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

2019 was a year of significant change so didn’t turn out quite the way I expected but the end result was both challenging and exciting. The start of the year saw me leading the channel marketing team in MarketReach but, because of a restructure, this changed, and I spent most of the year running the Royal Mail Data Services Team. These changes meant the year has been spent building a new three-year strategy for the business and focusing on our core capabilities and where the greatest opportunities for growth are.

 

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

I expect 2020 to be consistent with the last three to four years in that the only constant will be that it will be full of change. But change for the better as organisations continue on their journeys to digital transformation and continue to realise the value data can provide their businesses.

 

I also expect the basic requirements under GDPR to drive demand for innovation and therefore solutions from our industry to help support smaller businesses navigate the complexities of a rapidly evolving data driven world.

 

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

I think while GDPR has made clear what is expected of businesses, it’s also created uncertainty regarding what companies can and can’t do, particularly when it comes to keeping data up to date. It’s also triggered nervousness regarding sending data to third party organisations, which has added to the challenges in this space.

 

Therefore, I think there is a huge opportunity to make solutions in this space easier to access and utilize, so businesses can do the right thing by their customers and maintain compliance. Simple to use, easy to access solutions will be the key to enabling all organisations, large and small, to make the best use of the data hygiene solutions available.

 

I am also passionate about the use of data for good. For too long, keeping data clean has been shrouded in negative language, suppress, remove, delete and so on. I believe that the ability to know someone is where you think they are and that they are still alive is as useful - and therefore as valuable - as knowing when they’re not. I hope 2020 will be the year where we see services in this arena being positioned to reflect this.

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