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Martin Aylward, head of smart technology delivery, EDF Energy

Martin Aylward

Path to power

After a few interesting early roles at the Lord Chancellor’s Office and the Medical Research Council in London, I moved back to Brighton and got a job at American Express.

 

I then moved to Royal & Sun Alliance, where I managed to get onto its global digital leadership initiative at the peak of the dotcom boom, which led to me getting a job in the fledgling e-commerce team and a lead role in the creation of More Th>n. It was in this role that I cut my teeth on all things digital and data and set up the rest of my career.

 

Then, a love of all things French led me to EDF Energy, where I headed up first the acquisition and then the customer marketing teams, taking a lead role in relaunching the brand, building the direct and digital marketing capability and introducing Zingy to the world.

 

I also had the pleasure of leading the activation of our sponsorship of the 2012 Olympics. For the last three years, I’ve led the smart technology team, with a focus on the smart metering roll-out, which spans digital, IT, data, operations, marketing and, for the first time in my career, physical assets.

 

What is the proudest achievement of your career to date?

My proudest achievement has been to form a number of highly motivated, high performing teams that have done some great things, while hopefully having some fun along the way. A recent highlight has been to turn around EDF Energy’s Smart Metering Programme, which is a key part of one of the UK’s biggest infrastructure projects and is opening up a massive data opportunity.

 

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

I don’t generally look for role models, but any business leader who is great with their people, really puts the customer first and delivers results often is worth getting some inspiration from.

 

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

As always, some parts did, some didn’t. In any event, one aspect that is fascinating is the growth of low carbon energy and the opportunities that brings. Fossil fuels now contribute less than 40% of the generation mix and last December, wind generated so much energy that thousands of homes with smart meters were paid to plug in their electric vehicles overnight to use up the excess energy.

 

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

2020 is likely to be another exciting year of growth for the data and analytics industry. Demand for data professionals continues to outstrip supply, so a key focus will be on upskilling people with transferable skills and the right attitude. For example, at EDF, we are putting a bunch of existing staff through a Data Apprentice scheme alongside our external recruitment and early career activity.

 

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

One of the biggest opportunities is for all products and services to “just work” – so in the same way Apple, Google and Amazon products just work, the same could be for the NHS, transport and other critical services. This could take some doing though…

 

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

As with most transformation activities, it’s not technology that is the biggest challenge but the cultural change that needs to go alongside it. While there are perennial challenges around integrating disparate data sources, changing the organisation to ensure that enough focus is on data is the real challenge.

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