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Will Lowe, chief data officer, Engine

Will Lowe

Path to power

Throughout my career I have moved in order to learn. I began in brand marketing, working at Nestlé and Diageo which gave me broad experience. However, I became increasingly frustrated at the lack of effective measurement for many activities.

 

I moved to Dunnhumby, attracted by the richness of the Clubcard database at a time when Tesco accounted for £1 in every £7 spent in Britain. I learned about loyalty, CRM and how to transform businesses around customer data. I worked with global retailers and global brands, being the voice of the customer, helping them implement data-driven decisions, with robust measurement to demonstrate the value. Finally, I worked with Tesco globally on how to get return on investment from loyalty and on monetising its data and media estate.

 

I moved to TransUnion as MD of the marketing division to learn more about digital marketing, specifically the channels of search, social and digital display. I gained experience of working with Google, Facebook, data management platforms and digital data.

 

At Engine, I help businesses transform around digital and data, using our experience in data, analytics, technology, personalised communications and organisation and cultural change.

 

What is the proudest achievement of your career to date?

To have kept learning, which has meant taking roles where I’ve had experience of some elements, but others have been completely new. Marketing, like most things, has developed so much in the past 20 years and this is making the role of a CMO or CDO even more broad, while requiring depth in each technical area. My advice to everyone is to keep learning.

 

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

I was lucky to spend a decade working with Edwina Dunn and Clive Humby, who created Dunnhumby. Their business principles and customer-centric thought leadership ran through the organisation and defined the culture and values.

 

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

In 2019 it felt like the business world was becoming even more defined along the axis of the disruptors on one side and the disrupted on the other. The disruptors continue to grow; data and technology first businesses offering customer experiences that not only win share but change customer expectations forever. While the disrupted struggle to change alongside the burden of running their businesses as usual. Poor Thomas Cook, Mothercare and many more. Business life expectancies are getting shorter.

 

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

Considering the number of businesses that have invested in data and technology platforms over the past few years, I’m expecting more businesses to be looking to realise the value promised to them in those business cases. This requires collaboration between the different areas involved from the data managers, data engineers, martech vendors, marketers and their agencies. Businesses need to understand what data is valuable and in which context to drive performance.

 

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

There is growing momentum behind the need to tackle climate change and care for the environment, so one of the key areas where data and technology can support is in helping decisioning around how to reduce carbon emissions. Firstly, data can be used to understand and quantify the relative carbon footprints of different choices, whatever the product, service or activity. That data should then be made available to consumers, to support their choices about how they want to live.

 

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

I don’t think the biggest challenge is technology, because there is enough well-engineered technology out there for every current need. Data quality is a bigger issue and the lack of metadata to deliver the automated, orchestrated, multi-channel, personalised interactions customers and marketers want.

 

The biggest business challenge is how to create a data-driven culture, think and be like the disruptor and make it sustainable. I wouldn’t advise any data and technology investments unless they are accompanied by a business change programme, focused on the organisation and culture.

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