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Europe’s Top Data Innovators on Driving Business Value and Having Fun in a Pandemic

Seven of our Global Top 100 Innovators in Data and Analytics joined us for this virtual roundtable highlighting how Europe’s data leaders are responding to COVID-19

Fast-changing business conditions and uncertainty about what the future may hold have increased the stock value of data teams in businesses across Europe this year.  

Surging demand for accurate, relevant and timely data was a key topic in the European-focused virtual roundtable we hosted this month to celebrate the release of our 2020 Global Top 100 Innovators in Data and Analytics list.

“The expectation that the turnaround on demand is going to be quick and almost instantaneous has always been there,” said FedEx Express Global Head of Data Governance Anwar Mirza. “But [it’s] really being brought to the forefront now.”

Firming up the Foundations to Enable Innovation

For many businesses, the demand for data-based insights is at an all-time high. Delivering on that demand means data leaders need to ensure the backbone of their data strategy is solid.

“[Ensuring data is] being mastered, defined properly and owned,” explained Mirza. “That, along with this increase [in demand] for analytics data has been a challenge that a lot of companies and colleagues of mine have faced.”

This increase in demand for timely, accurate insights to inform decision-making reinforces the need to develop a company-wide culture when it comes to how a business works with data.

“That’s also where some of those data foundations come in,” argued BP Chief Data Officer – Integrated Supply and Trading Gary Goldberg. “Things like data ownership and making sure that business leaders are accountable and actually start fulfilling their responsibilities with data.”

Operationalizing Data to Create Business Value

Operationalizing data initiatives and ensuring they provide ROI is an ongoing challenges for data leaders. Tim Lum, Associate Director at IT and digital consultancy BCG Platinion, noted that this remains true in the age of COVID-19.

“First, you really need to understand what you are using the data for,” he said. “Think about what the use case is and what metrics you’ll impact on the business front.”

“[We need to] measure not only what was invested into and built, but also the whole lifecycle of the solution – that it really creates the value that it’s supposed to,” added Finnair Head of Data Minna Kärhä. “If it doesn’t [create value], then also have the courage to stop doing such things.”

Focusing on a clear business objective and identifying KPIs to measure the performance of data-driven initiatives is critical to track their success. However, in the current business landscape, many initiatives are simply focused on providing business units with the information they need to pivot rapidly in response to emerging situations.

“When you have rapid market changes and a very volatile situation, one of the things we try to do is to facilitate or to allow the business areas to be dynamic,” Goldberg concluded.

Data Leadership in the Age of Remote Working

The worldwide shift to remote working COVID-19 has catalyzed has far-reaching implications for data and analytics leadership. During this time, BP has lent on its network of data champions to continue to promote a data-centric culture to the business at large. BP’s data champions help to drive awareness of the organization’s data principles and act as conduits for feedback.

Goldberg explained: “We’ve used like-minded individuals from different parts of the business to come together to form a network who can help to champion data.”

Of course, remote working also poses managerial challenges for data leaders. In addition to their usual duties, many are taking steps to keep staff happy and motivated during these difficult times.

“You have to spend a little bit more time thinking about both the social and the formal [business activities], but it pays back in dividends,” said Lum.

“On the informal side it’s really great to get more social events happening,” Lum continued. “What this has done is [connect people] with a data focus in different cultures and actually start to have these dialogues that you wouldn’t otherwise have had.”

“We even appointed a CFO, or Chief Fun Officer, in our team,” quipped Easy Jet Data Science Director Ben Dias. “If you don’t have someone focusing on it then it won’t happen.”

Key Takeaways

  • Demand for data-driven insights is surging in Europe. Demand for data is at an all-time high and data teams are perfectly placed to drive their organizations forward
  • Show how data can impact the bottom line. Focus on core business objectives and identify metrics that reflect the impact data initiatives will have on them
  • Staff wellbeing is a priority in the age of COVID-19. Data leaders are taking steps to keep staff happy and productive while they are working remotely