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Martin Houghton, Chief data officer, Target Group

Path to power

 

I started my career in the energy industry with Shell in the early 90s. My very first position grounded my appreciation of the connection between reality, data and its potential to transform performance. Responsible for the physical audit of the network and compute infrastructure, I maintained a large inventory and reporting system for all our fixed assets. This role got me out into the real world of the business (refineries, production facilities, etc) and really set the trajectory for my career. Several data-related positions later I moved to a relatively small boutique analytics company as a performance management consultant working across a range of industry clients. I rejoined Shell a couple of years later, with much broader industry and technology experience and went on to lead data and analytics initiatives across the globe for various business units. BP came next, a big global role-setting data strategy, deploying transformational data management, data quality and analytical capabilities within the downstream business. A very enjoyable and formative part of my career with probably too many air miles clocked up! I took up my first CDO role four years later in 2006 with Computer Science Corporation. My second CDO appointment came in 2012 with Hewlett-Packard and finally, reaching the executive committee as CDO for Target Group in 2018.

 

What has been the highlight of your career in the industry to date?

 

I’ve been blessed to have worked with some amazing, talented, hardworking, fun people over my career and we’ve achieved some ground-breaking things. Working internationally and bringing people from all over the world to work together in hybrid teams is memorable. I have always believed that for a business really to treat data as a valued asset and to become a data-driven business, the CDO needs a place at the top table. It’s not an IT discipline, it’s a business discipline that needs IT. Joining Target Group as CDO and having a direct reporting line to our chief executive tops it off.

 

If you could give your younger self some advice about how to progress in this industry, what would it be?

 

Don’t focus on the data or the technology, focus on the outcome.My family and I are keen skiers. My wife had a nasty leg break early in the season last year and that pretty much changed a lot of our plans for the year. She’s recovered well and will probably be back on her skis next season, but it just showed me how fast things can change! Life and work are intertwined so much more than they used to be, so working with people that appreciate there is life outside of work is really helpful.

 

What do you expect 2019 to be like for the industry?

 

There has been a lot of hype about data transforming how we live, how we run our businesses, the insights we can gain and the things we can automate. Digital and data are flip sides of the same coin. I expect a reality check as regulators increase scrutiny, citizens demand more privacy and cyber gets hotter.

 

Talent and skills are always a challenge to find - how are you tackling this in your organisation?

 

A healthy combination of helping our current talent pool by exposing them to new areas and being as flexible as possible with people’s working location and work life balance.

 

What aspect of data, analytics or their use are you most optimistic about and why?

 

Improving our lives. Simple, but I think that must be the goal for all of us!Business and professional services inc. recruitment

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