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Nuala Kennedy-Preston, chief data officer, People’s Postcode Lottery

Nuala Kennedy

Path to power

I’ve had a long and varied career that has spanned all things data related. It’s been at the heart of every role and challenge that I’ve ever taken on. I’ve progressed through several different management positions within the world of data, insight and analysis. I get enormous satisfaction from mining an untapped piece of data and transforming it into something valuable and something with integrity.

 

I have always championed data in business, from educating on the importance of data quality, managing and setting requirements for data warehousing and BI tooling, to producing segments, or a better standard of data selection.

I truly believe in the power of data and it is so satisfying to share results either to test a hypothesis or produce new actionable insight. Technological advances also mean things never get boring.

 

It’s my love of data that has driven my career. I’m genuinely passionate about it and believe that well-managed data and data outputs are key to major business growth. I joined People’s Postcode Lottery in 2013 and established the insight and data management functions, as well as setting and developing the company retention strategy (data-driven, of course). Five years later, I was appointed chief data officer.

 

What is the proudest achievement of your career to date?

I’ve been working with People’s Postcode Lottery for six years and have had the opportunity to work with some inspiring people and projects. The highlight for me is the difference the funding generated by players of People’s Postcode Lottery has made and continues to make for people and planet. With 66% of all British postcodes playing and over £500 million already raised for charity, data is central to the success story of People’s Postcode Lottery and its vision of a better world with strong social organisations.

 

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

2019 was a very exciting year for us. We embarked on a new project - building a big data platform in the cloud. This was to remove functional department silos and provide a single, central information repository for the whole business. The vision and strategy for the big data platform is to service all departments, drive automation and reach untapped insights through AI and machine learning. We also commenced work on establishing data science as a key fixed business discipline in order to optimise insight-generation from an increasingly proliferating data estate.

 

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

I think we’re likely to see further developments in the world of artificial intelligence, specifically deep learning and machine learning. AI has been around a while now and we can really see it driving innovation in companies large and small. We should expect to see increased emphasis in this area on measures designed to increase transparency and to see more work carried out in order to minimise bias by utilising more inclusive data-sets in sampling. I also expect that we’ll see continued importance placed upon data privacy and protection, with further effort being placed on developing transparency models.

 

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

Corporate social responsibility. This could be any number of things, from reducing carbon footprint to tracking vulnerabilities. Data and technology are key to driving improvements in this area for both people and planet.

 

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

Keeping pace with rapidly changing technologies is one of the biggest tech challenges we face. Leveraging agile processes and systems that support frequent, if not continuous, integration and product releases are critical behaviours that lead to effective digital results. Data is at the heart of our digital transformation strategy and we work hard to ensure that the correct controls, testing and governance models are in place.

 

In order to leverage the potential of all the data being collected, we have a clear data vision and strategy and a method of gathering in one central repository the many and various siloed data-sets we hold. Just gathering data is not enough, the planning around data ethics, data aggregation and data exploration is critical. Another area that can be challenging is attracting the right data talent in a highly competitive marketplace.

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