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Shaun Pitman, Head of data and customer insight, British Gas Business

Path to power

 

Pitman joined Centrica in September 2003 having already spent a decade working within the world of data and marketing, both supplier- and agency-side. He launched his career with The Database Group before moving to London and joining the second fasted-growing direct marketing agency, Clark McKay and Walpole, where he played a key role in building the data planning and insight department. During this growth period, he was principally responsible for driving data strategies across key client accounts, including Porsche, Hyundai, RSPB, Carphone Warehouse and GNER. Within British Gas Business, Pitman has led and built an integrated data and analytics function that spans three P&Ls across the core disciplines of data quality and governance, data analytics, data planning and CRM. During 2018, he led the GDPR roll out across British Gas Business and gained increased responsibilities for leading and delivering a wider data transformation programme that will take him through 2019 and beyond. Externally, he has been a member of the DMA Data Council and conference speaker.

 

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

 

It’s challenging to pick out one highlight from my career, so I’ll focus on two recent achievements during 2018. Firstly, I was given the opportunity to lead and define the data transformation programme (people, process, platforms and tools) for UK Business which entails joining the dots across three P&Ls and multiple stakeholders to enable business strategy going forwards. Secondly, as leaders and managers it’s very humbling and rewarding to receive recognition across your wider team and stakeholders and so I was delighted to top the Centrica recognition board during November across all markets and geographical areas. This was topped by a significant improvement in employee engagement scores for 2018 overall. Thank you, team.

 

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

 

Just remember that not everyone in the business world shares a passionate interest in the “age of the algorithm”. Always focus on addressing the “so what?” question from a business stakeholder perspective and avoid using technical jargon.

 

Did 2018 turn out the way you expected? If not, in what ways was it different?

 

2018 turned out to be very different for me as my immediate boss left the organisation at the start of the year and I was then asked to take on additional leadership responsibilities for teams and people not traditionally associated with data and analytics, including customer experience, market research and customer intelligence teams. This experience has given me tremendous insight into the interconnectivity of disciplines which are all seeking to understand customers better so that we can make better business decisions.

 

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

 

The macro backdrop will remain extremely challenging for most, if not all industry sectors and, as such, anyone involved in the wider data community will come under increasing pressure to demonstrate value. So, 2019 has the potential to be a good year for “data”, but only if you can create a narrative that aligns with P&L discussions taking place in boardrooms during this period of uncertainty.

 

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

 

There is no silver bullet answer to this question as a successful data function requires a balance of hard and soft skill sets drawn from a variety of disciplines that are rarely found in one individual. Internally, every individual has a personal development plan that can be progressed through more traditional means (online courses, external courses) as well as by spending time with subject matter experts to gain more hands-on learning experiences in the field. Externally, I still rely upon my informal network of recruitment agencies and business contacts to find talented individuals for specific positions, particularly in areas of “data journalism” where I need people with good translation and communication skills. Looking ahead, more focus is being placed on creating communities of excellence across Centrica to help promote knowledge sharing and learning across data disciplines.

 

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

 

I now believe, at long last, that data is recognised as a strategic asset at board room level and that it has the potential to transform organisations and create competitive advantage provided, of course, the customer remains at the heart of the value exchange.

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