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Nick Sawyer, director of consulting, Deloitte

Nick Sawyer

Path to power

My first role in data was as a graduate process and analytics consultant with EY. Looking back, I was doing very basic analysis and modelling, but the concept of understanding a business’ vision and looking for insight that both supports this and adds value has stuck with me. I was fortunate that EY gave me the opportunity to work with clients of varying sizes, complexities, cultures, industries, countries and of cause data. I believe this diversity of experience has helped me both understand there are multiple ways to solve a problem and to thrive in constantly changing environments.

 

I enjoyed the variety and constant challenge of consulting, but I wanted the opportunity to own decisions and live the end to end impact. I specifically moved to Sainsbury’s, as I felt the chance to work with its data provided me with infinite opportunities to learn and make an impact. Six years on, I wasn’t wrong. I delivered breakthrough initiatives such as intelligent agriculture, developed a new group data ecosystem and was part of a huge maturity growth in Sainsbury’s, both analytically and culturally. In 2019, I decided to move to Deloitte to work with clients across the retail and consumer packaged goods market as they look to articulate a clear data vision, underpinned by a modern data ecosystem and with a sustainable focus.

 

What is the proudest achievement of your career to date?

I have been fortunate to be involved in a number of amazing projects through my career, however, central to my success at Sainsbury’s was the development of the data and analytics team. It is this, my old colleagues and the team environment that I developed with a balanced, diverse mix of colleagues which I am most proud. That I was able to recruit and grow such a high performing team, while the organisation when through some of its most significant changes, is even more rewarding.

 

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

Katherine Johnson, Alan Turin and Winston Churchill figure highly, but it is my big sister. She has dealt with all the challenges of being a woman in the legal profession, rising to be a senior partner and board member at a global law firm, while having four wonderful children and for the past 3 years a husband who has terminal cancer. She’s amazing.

 

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

I think the most exciting aspect of 2019 was witnessing the realisation of industry and governments that climate change was important and had significant commercial implication.

 

While Greta Thunberg has rightly taken the headlines, for me it was interesting to see how industry has responded. Larry Fink, CEO of Blackrock, wrote that sustainability was at the centre of the company’s investment approach. “Climate change is different. Even if only a fraction of the projected impacts is realised, this is a much more structural, long-term crisis”, than any prior financial crisis. Ethical, transparent, sustainable commerce, not yet, but 2019 was an important inflection point.

 

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

A constantly changing, challenging but rewarding rollercoaster. More precisely I’m interested to see how three areas evolve. Cloud: I expect the growth in cloud to continue at pace (multi and hybrid) but with a greater understanding and clearer strategy of how it will be utilised within a data ecosystem. Data and analytics capability: I think we’ll see an increased focus on the education, reskilling and upskilling of existing colleagues. Customer experience: I expect to see the growth in more immersive customer experiences harnessing augmented analytics and data management. As an outside shout, will this be the year of 5G? Probably not, but it will be interesting to see.

 

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

I strongly believe data and technology can support positive change in our world, and I am excited about the discussions I am already having with clients. As I write, carbon management and carbon targets are very topical; and it is clearly an area we can and should help with. That said, the biggest opportunity I see is the ability for data and technology to provide transparency for investors, corporates, consumers, and maybe most importantly the producers.

 

Transparency enables informed decisions, builds trust, promotes innovation and raises standards. It is hugely challenging to fully achieve, but those that embraces it quickly will see the greatest benefit.

 

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

Within retail and consumer I see technology and data’s job as meeting the uniquely personal demands we now make on companies; to pre-empt what I will want in any given circumstance and serve it to me in the most appropriate manner, or even to withhold that information based on choices I have made (health, lifestyle, budget etc).

 

Managing the data ecosystem to provide these services is hugely complicated, however, enabling the business to understand the challenges of creating, migrating and maintaining, it is equally as difficult. As such, I think the biggest issue is growing the data literacy of organisations, not in the art of the possible, but in the challenges of effectively and sustainably meeting that customer demand.

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