The UK’s top 50 data leaders 2017

Information Age today unveils its second annual list of the UK’s top 50 data leaders.

The Data 50 Awards is the UK’s premier initiative for celebrating data leadership and excellence. The list is updated annually to recognise the top individuals and companies creating business value and innovation from data.

Information Age’s research and editorial team received over 300 nominations for this year’s programme and studied them rigorously before whittling them down to the top 50.

Further to this ranking, ten ‘best in class’ winners will be revealed at the Data 50 Awards ceremony on 18 May at the Montcalm London Marble Arch. An independent judging panel meet to decide the winners two weeks prior to the ceremony. This year’s judges are:

  • Ahmed Khamassi, ‎Data Science Executive Director, J.P. Morgan
  • Andrew Crisp, ‎EU & Asia Data Engineering Leader, ‎Dun & Bradstreet
  • Barry Panayi, Chief Data Officer, Amlin
  • Carlos Somohano, Founder, Data Science London
  • Janani Dumbleton, Head of Data for myBBC, BBC
  • Mark Howden, ‎Head Of Data, Santander Global Corporate Banking
  • Matt Hobby, Head of Data Science for Analytics, Elsevier
  • Neil Tape, ‎Chief Data Officer, ‎National Institute for Health Research
  • Nick Creagh, ‎Data & Analytics Director, TES Global
  • Paul Banoub, Director of Analytics as a Service, UBS Investment Bank
  • Peter Williams, Head of Enterprise Analytics, Marks and Spencer
  • Robin Hayden, Head of Data Architecture, Paddy Power Betfair

The awards honour people and firms at the forefront of data – those transforming organisations and enhancing decision-making through its use, managing and controlling its proliferating growth, and driving business value.

All functions involved in driving data innovation in the UK were considered for this year’s list, including the vendors creating the technology, the end-users deploying it, and the consultancies and integrators that get deployments over the line.

The Data 50 Awards ceremony is a must-attend event for the UK’s data community, attended by hundreds of the top leaders and influencers. Click here to book your place at the ceremony.

The 2017 Data 50

N.B: The Data 50 recipients are listed alphabetically, not ranked in order of achievement.

1. Abed Ajraou, Data and Insights Director, First Utility

Independent energy supplier First Utility is one of a new generation of technology-led energy retails. Part of its technology-led vision is to become a truly data-enabled organisation. Abed Ajraou joined First Utility in 2015 and has since delivered a step-change in its data capabilities and extended its vision. He has created a framework to identify and prioritise the potential data investments in order to maximise the value realised to the business. In 2016, the in-year ROI for investments in data was around 200%. To enable data-driven behaviour at First Utility, Ajraou has also built a data portal that securely federates access to the company’s new data assets. The portal provides a convenient, single repository that allows any employee to see the data that may be available and request access to it. The portal is also used to engage the business community and share the team’s backlog, priorities and current project investments.

2. Aingaran Pillai, Founder and CEO, Zaizi

Aingaran Pillai is the CEO and founder of open source software consultancy Zaizi. His firm holds numerous contracts providing data management solutions to both central and local government including the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the Home Office, Ministry of Justice and Bristol City Council, among others. Combined, government work makes 95% of the business. He has worked with open source technology since 2000 and has actively promoted its use within government for the last 16 years. Zaizi is an innovative force in public sector data management, priding itself on its innovative approach to data and the results it has achieved for its clients. Pillai is committed to helping government organisations make better use of data. He is a firm believer that more effective data use directly translates into a better-run government and in turn a more transparent and easier life for the UK citizens.

3. Alan Grogan, UK&I Head of Data and Analytics, Atos

Alan Grogan has proven his expertise in the field of data and analytics with multiple clients over the last 12 months – from data strategy to implementations of data-rich platform solutions. With a leading travel and transport organisation, Grogan has led a business-focused data strategy looking at how it can monetise and leverage the value from its vast data set. He has also shepherded the client and its board through the various implications of that for the organisation, governance and P&L. Grogan has also led a team of data scientists to explore how Atos can change the commercial basis of some of its clients’ businesses – whether that be by using insights to create new propositions for customers by looking at new pricing and ticketing solutions, or by a simple cross-sell and up-sell based on multiple datasets being integrated and processed. In the last year, Grogan has also led a CRM implementation in the financial services sector, drawing heavily upon data to exploit the benefits of the systems.

4. Kevin van Kessel, Head of Operations Reporting, Tata Steel Europe

In the highly competitive steel industry, factory managers are challenged to keep yields as high as possible for any given manufacturing process. To accomplish this goal at Tata Steel, raw data is collected at every process step, primarily from process control systems. Keeping track of orders and stock levels, where there may be several weeks between receipt of an order and delivery of finished products, can be a complex management task. Tata Steel’s CIO issued a strategic directive to find an enterprise reporting product that could be rolled out to the entire organisation. A flexible data architecture from Information Builders was deployed, with fully automated tools that simplify data integration.

5. Ark’s systems team

When education charity Ark, which runs 35 schools across Birmingham, Hastings, London and Portsmouth, realised there is no commercially available product that reduces the time teachers spend on data administration, it developed its own in-house data analytics platform, CCR. Over the past few years, CCR has become one of the most important tools in Ark’s school improvement arsenal. With over 1,200 unique weekly users, CCR analyses are proactively accessed by over half of Ark’s 2,000 teachers at least once every five working days. An Ark school leader can use CCR to view their teachers’ most recent assessment trends, compare these to other schools’ results, and then combine them with attendance and lesson observation data in order to inform an action plan. When a new Year 7 student arrives at an Ark school with exam results from the end primary school, CCR takes this data, calculates base grades for every subject and sets default targets for each term over the next five years. Later, whenever the student is assessed by their teachers, CCR calculates their progress and performance verses target without a spreadsheet in sight. It also calculates the average progress for the school and compares it with other schools across the network. Within minutes of a school entering its termly assessment data, every head of department can tell at a glance which student groups are performing better than others and which students within those groups require support most urgently.

6. The BI team at Bron Afon Community Housing

Business intelligence at Bron Afon Community Housing has become not an optional feature but a core business process over the past 18 to 24 months. It has become the lifeblood of decision-making, operational functionality and organisational progression, utilising effective tools and methodologies in order to provide valuable, timely and accurate data in an easily digestible format. In terms of The HP Business Intelligence Maturity Model, Bron Afon was firmly in the category of ‘operational’ in 2014 – highly reliant on manual, inefficient and unreliable spreadsheets and with no particular process in place for generating data. However, the BI team has successfully developed its practices to reflect that of the ‘transformation’ stage. The team has empowered the end user, utilising the newest BI dashboards and providing effective training sessions. It has been key in the implementation of an effective KPI strategy, based upon both external benchmarking figures and internal service plans in order to guide departmental development. It has also built and implemented predictive analytics across all reports in order to promote a culture of continuous improvement across all departments.

7. Bill McGloin, Chief Technologist, Computacenter

Bill McGloin is a recognised leader in the UK data storage and information governance market with over 25 years’ experience providing strategic advice to many of the world’s leading organisations. He is regularly asked to share his feedback on product portfolios, target markets, GTM strategies and suggested developments for HPE, EMC, Net App and Pure Storage’s storage portfolios. In addition to providing the go-to-market strategy for Computacenter in storage, data protection, information governance and analytics market, Bill has advised several large financial institutions, pharmaceutical companies, government and industrial organisations on storage, protection, discovery, and management of electronic information. This includes the development of policies and procedures for the governance of information utilising various technologies, and the development of data source catalogues and ingestion of data to drive business value for information sources. McGloin’s attitude is that the upcoming GDPR legislation has the potential to significantly benefit organisations who have adequately prepared for it, and has long been an advocate of understanding data and its relevant value to a business.

8. Brian Hills, Head of Data, The Data Lab

Brian is a founding leader of the Data Lab having joined with 18 years experience in engineering and analytics at HP, Sumerian and most recently Skyscanner, where he created, scaled and led the BI team and launched its first B2B analytics product. The Data Lab innovation centre has been created by the Scottish Government to drive significant economic and social value from data for the country through catalysing industry, academic and public sector collaboration. Hills is the technical leader of the organisation and is instrumental in developing and reviewing the projects proposals it receives for funding. He is critical in ensuring the Data Lab invests in projects that have the right balance of innovation, ambition and ability to execute – everything from startups with new ideas, to large international businesses and public sector organisations. Hills is also responsible for the Data Lab’s education portfolio and has, within two years, scaled this beyond the targets from its funders. He is a creative leader who embodies the mission at the Data Lab to innovate and deliver economic and social value at a national scale.

9. Caroline Carruthers, Chief Data Officer, Network Rail

Network Rail runs, maintains and develops Britain’s rail infrastructure, working with train and freight operating companies to deliver 1.69 billion passengers journeys a year and 116.6 million tonnes of freight material. Information and data management is a critical capability within this highly complex environment. Caroline Carruthers identified and highlighted the key challenges for Network Rail in today’s environment with increasing information variety, volume and veracity. Her argument centred on the breadth of components required for effective information management and governance. Just having the right policies is simply not enough. Instead, the implementation and ongoing development of enterprise-level information management and governance must be supported by the right accountabilities and information professionals, as well as appropriate communications, training and education for the organisation. To ensure the subject was addressed at the right level Carruthers raised a business risk detailing the potential for poor decision-making and the inefficient use of resources as a result of poor management of information and data. Having successfully created the case for improved information governance across Network Rail, she was appointed organisatino’s first chief data officer. She established a small core team operating in a federated manner with a larger matrix team encompassing information security, data protection, freedom of information, records management and business intelligence.

10. Ciaran Dynes, VP Products, Talend

Currently based in Dublin, Dynes is quick to point out that, at the moment, most active big data projects are in the US. Many UK-based companies are still in the research phase and curious as to what big data might mean for them. Often he acts as “part strategic advisor, part curator, and part soothsayer”. He always needs to stay around 18 months ahead of the field, he says, to fulfil these roles. A computer science graduate from Trinity College Dublin, Dynes has been involved in data integration since the early 1990s. Since then he has worked at Iona Technologies, Progress Software and most recently Talend. Currently VP of products at Talend, Dynes leads global product management, including responsibility for managing $75-100m+ commercial middleware integration product lines. His extensive experience sees him driving cross-functional teams, managing products from cradle to maturity, justifying and negotiating new product development investments, as well as company acquisitions and launching new products into international markets. He works with companies across a range of industries such as pharmaceuticals, banking, energy and gaming, as well as with big data distributors the likes of Hortonworks and Cloudera, to produce significant results. BetVictor, Flybe, Jaeger, Calor Gas, HomeServe and Wejo. In July, Talend became a publicly traded company on NASDAQ, strengthening company’s position to deliver the critical infrastructure companies need to harness the full power of their data. Dynes is seen as instrumental in leading the move to big data at Talend, which has been the backbone of the company’s rise to success over the past five years.

11. Dan Hughes, Director, Data and Information Products, and PropTech lead, Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors

Despite being one of the largest sectors in the world, the property sector has been slow to change and adopt new technology and is often considered to be behind other sectors. Many of the decisions that are made across all parts of the property sector are based on data and its analysis, but despite this, the value that it brings has traditionally not been widely appreciated. Dan Hughes is playing a leading role in helping the property sector to understand data, the value that it brings and challenges it presents. The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) is the leading global property sector professional body where Hughes is responsible for the PropTech strategy, driving data and technology change across the property sector, as well as leading the ‘data and information’ product management team which produces a wide range of data products for use in the built environment to benefit the market. Hughes is vocal in promoting the innovation, adoption and use of data across the whole built environment and along with leading the activity at RICS regularly contributes to publications with thought leadership.

12. Dan Nelson, Head of Data, Ocado

Dan Nelson has over 20 years experience working in technology, the last 15 of which have been spent at Ocado. He has held many roles in Ocado Technology, from webshop and data warehousing to supply chain and planning systems. He led the first forays into personalisation of the Ocado service over ten years ago and has overseen and observed major changes in the way it drives the customer proposition through data. Three years ago he took on the role of leading the newly formed data department with the goal of accelerating that change by bringing together the skills of data science and visual analysis with best-of-breed storage and computation platform. Nelson and his team spearheaded the effort to move Ocado to the cloud. Ocado was one of the first companies to use Hadoop and Apache Spark software on Google Compute Engine, but then saw the benefits of using Google BigQuery to create and display complex real-time analytics. The data team lets Ocado’s business analysts avoid the complex setup and workflow required to run queries against Hadoop and Spark, and also helps them expand data analytics out to its supplier and partners. Since moving to the cloud and adopting the latest solutions from Tableau and other big data suppliers, Ocado has saved on operations costs and headcount, and also provided consumers with a more intuitive shopping experience.

13. Dan Wilson, Head Of Data, Fetch

At the helm of the global data and analytics offering for a mobile-first marketing agency that’s grown from start-up to 180+ people across markets within three years, Dan Wilson has worked with some of the most cutting-edge, mobile-first businesses such as, Expedia, Uber and Hulu. As well as running multi-million pound media campaigns to engage mobile-first consumers, Wilson also manages the technology requirements of the agency and its global clients, managing a small development team to build data aggregation, management, insight and reporting solutions. Wilson is responsible for Fetch’s in-house measurement solution, which monitors billions of user interactions across thousands of user engagement points to create the best understanding of mobile consumer behaviour. Fetch’s technology solution (and its continued adaptation under Wilson’s guidance) allows hundreds of millions of dollars of ad spend to be reported, optimised and analysed through a globally consistent data structure and process, providing massive efficiency to the agency. As a direct result of this tool, Fetch’s data team have seen a 300% reduction in manual hours required to produce client deliverables and audience insight. Wilson built Fetch’s in-house fraud prevention offering from scratch with a small in-house development team using data modelling and evaluation techniques which has saved clients $2.3m in the past 6 months.

14. David Castro-Gavino, Data Technology Consultant for Asia, EMEA and LatAm, Dunnhumby

Heading up the data and technology consulting function for Africa, Asia, EMEA and LatAm, David Castro-Gavino’s role as a data leader is at the heart of everything dunnhumby does. He works closely with retailers and brands, providing data consultancy across multiple geographies to help them draw value from their data, by creating or enhancing their data strategies. Working with a retailer in the LatAm region, Castro-Gavino led an important data transformation programme, designed to change the way this company used data to improve interactions with their customers. His expertise resulted in a return on investment equating to more than 50 times the base cost, and generating 30% incremental annual sales and a whopping 43% increase of expenditure per customer. Working with a large FMCG company, using the latest open source technology, Python R and PostgreSQL, Castro-Gavino provided the foundations for this client to better understand the behaviours and attitudes of their customers, uncovering the reason behind poor brand performance and opening up new solutions through a customer-centric approach. Working with a large retailer in EMEA, he helped build out its ability to create a ‘single customer view’, identifying where the gaps can be enriched with additional data sources. Rather than being based on gut instinct or margins, its decisions around pricing are now built around the segmentations created as a result of Castro-Gavino’s approach, based on insights derived from their customer data.

15. David Fearne, Technical Director, Arrow ECS

David Fearne, the youngest director in Arrow ECS’s history, is responsible for developing and maintaining the company’s technical presence in the channel, as well as the implementation of technical strategies. Fearne recently launched a project to help businesses understand, use and educate others on the benefits of large-scale data analytics and BI. The project – How Happy Is London? – collects, processes and continually refreshes 2.6 billion different units of data from unconnected sources freely available in the public domain and related to the city’s happiness. The final output is a happiness indicator, creating an up-to-the-minute snapshot of London’s mood, which is refreshed from new data every 60 seconds. These data sources range from Transport for London on possible disruptions to weather updates from the Met Office, along with the use of sentiment words in conjunction with ‘London’ on Twitter. The incoming data is then analysed in real-time and represented online as a series of images of people and places in the capital. The algorithm and platform was launched in November 2016, and since then Fearne has also launched How Happy Is Munich? He aims to roll the project out across Paris, Madrid, Copenhagen, New York, San Francisco, Colorado and Denver this year.

16. David Todd, Group Data Director, Travis Perkins

Many of the numerous systems across Travis Perkins are old, some over 30 years, with bespoke processes and a lack of data validation. In addition, the acquisitive nature of TP Group has led to many different ERPs systems being used and many siloes of data leading to inconsistency and poor accuracy of data. David Todd joined the company four years ago with a remit to improve the data quality, process and systems, helping the group become more data-driven and focus on the value of good data. Todd has championed, sponsored and led many data system improvements that have been driven, amongst other projects, by the implementation of a master data management (MDM) programme. The initial focus was on product data and the launch of a group wide product information management (PIM) system paved the way to improve data quality driving numerous group website improvements and launches. With over half a million active products in the legacy systems, this migration was not an easy task. The work started with website products, adding marketing information, facet values and imagery. The product data in PIM now feeds to over six different group websites and ERPs and is helping Travis Perkins meet customer demands and improve their multi-channel experience. As an example, the overhaul of product data and images has played a part in improving the Wickes website SEO improvements and seen the site sales and conversion almost double in just over two years. Todd now leads a team of experienced data stewards who work closely with many TP colleagues across the business implementing and improved a rules-driven approach to automated data quality.

17. Di Mayze, Managing Director, EU, Acceleration

Under Di Mayze’s leadership in Europe, Acceleration continues to maintain double-digit annual growth. Mayze leads a team of skilled technical consultants, ensuring some of the world’s biggest brands collect, store, analyse, share and monetise customer data assets effectively and in line with their commercial objectives. She also excels at combining ten years of data and insight experience with her neurolinguistics skills. This supports her career-wide commitment to releasing the value of data – to simplify and humanise it for people, bringing it to life for non-analysts and maximising its uses everywhere. She has devised and run many training initiatives in this area, including for the Metropolitan Police, which through more insight-led marketing activity now has a clearer understanding of crime hotspots and how to use data to warn potential victims, reduce crime and keep the public safe. One of her favourite projects was an insight engagement for weight control firm Atkins Nutritionals, which wanted to know how to grow market share. Analysis revealed that the most loyal buyers weren’t women who wanted to lose weight, as the marketing had targeted, but bodybuilding men who wanted the protein-boost. Other companies Mayze has run key strategic data projects for include Unilever, P&G, Nestle, Estee Lauder, Barclays, Johnson & Johnson and Bacardi.

18. Edward Crook, Research Manager North America and LATAM, Brandwatch

Edward Crook joined Brandwatch in 2012, working out of the company’s UK headquarters in Brighton. At the end of 2013, he moved to Berlin to introduce and establish a research services team, and in November 2015 he moved to New York to build Brandwatch’s research team for North America and Latin America. Crook and his team take big, social data from Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, news sites, forums and blogs, and identifies the actionable business insights from millions of social mentions. Brandwatch’s clients flock to Crook’s team, and the services they provide, and have as a result become a lucrative source of revenue for Brandwatch. Crook is passionate about ‘social for good’, a movement dedicated to using social data for positive change. Earlier this year he spoke in Washington DC about the Syrian refugee crisis as depicted and impacted by social media. In more recent pro bono work with UK anti-bullying charity Ditch The Label, he led a research series exploring prejudice in online discourse. The research, launched at a parliamentary reception in the UK in October, tackled misogyny, masculinity, homophobia, transphobia and racism, offering new perspectives on how these might be measured and tackled in the digital age.

19. The Guardian’s technology team

As with many large organisations, the Guardian uses the Elastic Stack to monitor log files within its internal systems, forming the basis of its IT operations monitoring and security. Seeing the power of the Stack and recognising the value of large scale search and analytics to its core news business, the Guardian’s architecture team has taken Elastic’s open source technology and re-engineered journalism for the 21st century. The Guardian’s ‘Content API’ lies at the heart of the newspaper’s digital presence, ensuring readers get fast access to the content they want, on the platform they choose. All content is produced in the organisation’s own content management system before being fed into the API which is built on the open source Elasticsearch platform. The Content API is then responsible for distribution and search, unlocking the real value of over 2 million articles, and processing an average of 666 information requests per second. Built and supported by a team of just 5 developers, the content API provides the digital gateway to everything that the Guardian publishes. The paper’s architecture team have harnessed the power of existing technology to revolutionise its digital distribution. Online and in-app search is unrecognisable from previous iterations and, built on the world’s most popular open source search project, it continues to get better over time. The Guardian’s use of data gathering and exploration also reaches to the heart of its editorial processes. Ophan, the Guardian’s in-house-developed analytics system, delivers vital insight on how readers find and engage with content. The information is delivered in real-time – from 30 million page views per day – to over 850 users across the organisation. This real-time visibility has allowed the entire organisation to learn how to fine tune content and headlines to meet readers’ expectations.

20. Guy Hanson, Senior Director of Professional Services, Return Path

Using a network of email data, Return Path brands insight into their email marketing programmes so they can improve email delivery, subscriber engagement and revenue generated. The company has 3,000 customers worldwide. Through the Return Path Data Exchange, it has brought together the world’s most comprehensive source of data from the email ecosystem. Collaborating with more than 70 providers of mailbox and security solutions, covering 2.5 billion inboxes – approximately 70% of the worldwide total – the company has established a trusted data-sharing network. Also feeding into the data platform is its consumer network of more than 2 million consumers and purchase receipts from 5,000 retailers around the world, delivering insight into purchase behaviour, brand affinity and consumer preferences. One customer, FanFinders, was driving 30% of its revenue from email marketing campaigns but was suffering from low inbox placement rates and subscriber engagement. By analysing FanFinder’s email data and providing insight into its inbox filtering rules, which was making deliverability from unrecognised sources difficult, Return Path amended the brand so that it was registered on the certification whitelist. This increased FanFinders’ deliverability rates to 95%, which had a significant impact on its engagement with inbox users.

21. Jacob Ayres-Thomson, Head of Data Sciences, JRP Group

Typically insurers pass over large portions of their assets for external management but, at JRP Group, Jacob Ayres-Thomson is developing novel applications of data science in a bid to change that. He was recruited by JRP Group’s CEO to design, build and then evangelically lead the firm’s first group-wide data science operation. In his first year he successfully delivered a new artificial intelligence (AI) approach to an old problem which produced startling results.  He has developed a new piece of novel AI software which experiments with and learns optimal ALM strategies. To put this into context, his firm holds over 300 bonds and the market is much larger. The ALM challenge requires playing a rather more complex version of the game of Tetris, piecing together and matching asset cash flow structures with the firm’s specific liability profile whilst sitting within regulatory constraints, optimising yields and capital. What is more, the Solvency II regulatory environment presents a whole host of added complexities and restrictions. Using a number of innovations and hybridising some methods from machine learning, Jacob has produced a system that learns as it experiments and in so doing, it is discovering new hitherto unseen ‘efficient frontiers’ in the ALM solution space. The efficient frontier space discovered by the AI was able to simultaneously find an opportunity to materially boost IFRS profits, release cash and unlock capital – all in 45 minutes.  It is evident that the insurance (or wider ALM) industry could crystallise immediate material profits by employing such an approach and prudent inference on materiality at JRP indicates a currently unseen opportunity in the billions for the european insurance sector.  Jacob sees this as merely the first step, next he plans to expand the approach to wider capital usage by increasingly seeking to ‘code’ segmented internal expertise – enabling deeper exploration of Group level capital optimisation.

22. James Fisher, Vice President of Global Product Marketing, Qlik

James Fisher has been working with businesses to unlock data-driven possibilities for the best part of two decades. As part of his role at Qlik, where he has been since 2014, he oversees the go-to-market product strategy for its analytics platform and shapes its thought leadership and market intelligence activities. He also oversees Qlik’s demo and innovation team, which is responsible for showcasing what organisations can achieve with Qlik solutions by building external-facing analytics applications for sport, CSR and media activities. Fisher is a firm believer in the idea that everyone should be a data analyst, or at least have the ability to understand how it impacts their job and their sector. One solution he champions is data education, from primary school all the way through to university and beyond, after all the industry moves at such a rapid rate that continuous learning is key. Businesses should be taking active steps not just to employ data analysts, but to constantly upskill existing staff for these capabilities. After what has been a turbulent year for organisations, the proper understanding of data and how it can be used for competitive advantage has never been greater.

23. Jen Shorten, Technical Delivery Architect EMEA, MarkLogic

Since 2008, Jen Shorten has been helping customers resolve their large-scale legacy data integration problems and transform their businesses. While working for the academic publisher Wiley, she was one of a handful of tech disruptors driving the first wave of digital-first publishing. Also, as one of the first people in the UK to use NoSQL technology to underpin business-critical applications, she led the business analysis and development teams in a complete rewrite of Wiley’s online publishing platform using the MarkLogic database. Today over 60% of Wiley’s revenue comes from providing digital solutions. Today, Shorten applies her expertise to the public sector.

24. Jim Conning, Managing Director, Royal Mail Data Services

Royal Mail Data Services (RMDS) is the specialist data business of Royal Mail Group. Jim Conning is spearheading Royal Mail’s entry into new markets by harnessing the company’s trusted reputation and data expertise to enable consumers and organisations to interact both physically and digitally in secure and trusted environments. Since taking up the role, he has been instrumental in driving the development of new products and services for government, businesses and consumers. In 2015, RMDS was chosen as one of a trusted group of organisations to provide ID verification services to power GOV.UK’s Verify service, which gives people a safer, simpler and faster way of accessing government services online. Under Conning’s stewardship, RMDS developed the ID verification service in less than 12 months. Conning and his team are also working with organisations to provide guidance and best practices on how to prepare for compliance with the GDPR – in particular, the use of permissioned data. This is exemplified by his commitment to working with industry bodies as well as businesses and consumers to understand the concerns surrounding the provision and use of customer data post-GDPR enforcement.

25. Jim Webber, Chief Scientist, Neo Technology

Jim Webber has helped forge the technical path at Neo Technology, the company behind the graph database Neo4j. Among the wide variety of business applications it has been used for, Neo4j powered the 2.6 terabyte-strong Panama Papers exposé by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, the largest data leak in journalistic history, allowing investigators across the globe to decipher a web of interconnected dataset detailing wide-scale international tax evasion. Six years ago, Webber started Europe’s largest NoSQL database meet-up on graph databases in London and established Neo4j’s UK presence. At that time, it was a presence based out of his spare bedroom. Recently he has been leading Neo4j’s R&D efforts on dependable scalable computing with a strong consistency model called causal consistency. Causal consistency is far superior to eventual consistency typically used in NoSQL databases but has a reputation for being expensive to implement and execute. Webber believes large Neo4j clusters can be formed using the approach in a way that provides the abstraction of a single machine to the developer. If this is achieved, developers will store graph data in the database and the data will be guaranteed to be available when they subsequently come to query it. In distributed systems this is a huge sea change from eventually consistent stores, where developers and operators have no such guarantees and end up with convoluted and unsafe workarounds.

26. Karl Grambow, Head of Managed Services, Coeo

Karl Grambow has innovated a proactive monitoring platform to provide an early warning system to avoid issues affecting customers’ business. The platform uses more than 5,000 proactive rules that he can extend with custom checks for each monitored environment, allowing his team to provide a tailored service monitoring platform, avoiding the cost and overhead of employing a team of experienced database administrators. Over the last two years, Grambow has transformed this business area and through his exemplary behaviour and customer service, he has achieved significant customer satisfaction. He has created an innovative technical solution for database performance monitoring whilst ensuring continual development of his DBA team and grown the business area by 50%. As a result of his efforts, Coeo has been able to transform its customer’s databases and enable customers to manage, manipulate and analyse their data without delay to allow them to thrive in competitive markets.

27. Katia Walsh, Chief Global Data and Analytics Officer, Vodafone

Dr. Katia Walsh’s career spans over 20 years of fuelling digital innovation by harnessing big data, advanced analytics, machine learning and artificial intelligence solutions. She is one of the very few global chief data officers with a command of the full spectrum of data capabilities: data governance, big data platforms, analytics services and digital solutions. As Vodafone’s first chief data and analytics officer, Walsh has led the prioritisation of data as an asset and elevated it to one of the company’s most important areas of focus at group board level. Among her achievements at Vodafone, she has developed a big data and advanced analytics strategy and delivered on the company’s aspiration to harness the combination of new data, technologies and techniques to solve complex, high-impact business problems. She has also launched big data and advanced analytics capabilities in seven Vodafone operation countries and spearheaded architecture and delivery of a big data platform with 17 Petabytes of capacity, ranking among the top 10 EMEA big data platforms. The work she and her team are delivering is creating enormous business value at Vodafone. Through all this, she has managed an intense culture change in one of the most complex and dynamic companies globally.

28. Kevin Crew, IT Director, ADVO Group

Employee benefit specialist ADVO created in-house systems allowing slicker account administration and lower client fees. Kevin Crew is both architect and administrator of ADVO Online. Designed for companies up to 500 employees, ADVO Online was created for SMEs and small corporates, and has matured into a complete employee management and communication platform, allowing a shift from policy administration to a generator of sales. In 2015 ADVO went live with a full flex-benefits platform, giving SMEs access to a unique benefit engagement technology previously the preserve of larger corporates. In April 2015, ADVO extended staff portals to incorporate full flexible-benefits. The current system is in its third generation with a fourth currently in construction that encompasses payroll and HR. Towards the end of 2015, ADVO moved away from product sales based around renewal dates to targeted technology appointments.

29. Larisa Cojocaru, Business Operations Specialist, Boeing

With a strong finance and public relations background, Larisa Cojocaru has worked in international business for over five years, including four years within the automotive industry and most recently with Boeing Defence UK (BDUK), working on the UK Chinook Through Life Customer Support (TLCS) Programme. TLCS is a performance-based availability contract and flagship programme that provides heavy depot maintenance, modifications and upgrades for the UK Ministry of Defence. The primary reason for Cojocaru’s placing on the Data 50 is her achievement in introducing a new strategic dashboard for the TLCS programme. Cojocaru planned, selected and implemented the new dashboard in approximately six months to provide Boeing and customer stakeholders with clear, assumable information on the health of the programme and the constituent functional teams, whilst also helping to identify opportunities for further performance improvement, increased efficiency and cost saving.

30. Malcolm Murphy, Technology Director, Western Europe, Infoblox

Raw data, pervasive in modern enterprises, is often funnelled into an array of complex tools where it typically requires an exercise in technical origami to shape and fold it to get what you really want: actionable intelligence. Infoblox helps organisations sort through network complexity to find actionable insights that can help mitigate security threats, meet compliance requirements, anticipate and help respond to future network loads or failures. Malcolm Murphy leads technology for Infoblox in its Western Europe region. The company has immediate access to data essential to deriving business and network context. This context is essential to understanding and improving operation of the network, identifying the root cause of problems, and resolving issues rapidly.

31. Mark Carrington, Chief Technologist, Data8

Data8 was founded by Antony Allen in 2005 with Mark Carrington and Richard Hartland appointed as directors. The company processes millions of transactions for some of the largest organisations, including Ellis Brigham, AQA and England Rugby. Carrington has headed Data8’s development in technology. During the past 11 years, he has not only been instrumental in establishing one of the UK leading data solutions providers, but he has created new coding and added features to existing software to make them more accessible and usable. He has shared his knowledge across the world in presentations and demonstrations and also contributed to whitepapers and blog articles. Carrington oversees Data8’s product development team who are responsible for maintaining and evolving cleanse, validate and supply solutions. Furthermore, he is responsible for the data quality systems’ performance and ensures that clients are given the security of maximum up time. He is at the forefront of developing technology for Data8, continuously working to ensure that the solutions are easily accessible for everyone.

32. Mark Curling, Head of Data Analytics, onefinestay

Since launching in 2010, UK hospitality startup onefinestay has expanded into six major cities around the world and in the summer of 2016 was acquired by AccorHotels for $170 million. The business model at onefinestay is brimming with complexity and as such it had no choice but to position the business as a leader in data to achieve its success. Since joining the company at the end of 2011, Mark Curling has built and managed the whole vertical of analytics – from designing and implementing the infrastructure, to driving key decisions in the business by demonstrating actionable insight from data. Commercially, the data analytics team had a huge impact in the months leading up to the acquisition. In the first half of 2016, Curling’s team used decision tree modelling to build a lead-valuation algorithm. By using this to power the commissioning of the sales team, the team were able to drive a 12% increase in the conversion of leads to sales. They also integrated Segment to capture and stitch together onefinestay’s user-tracking data. This provided insights from which they were able to make modifications to the on-site search functionality – driving up conversion through their ecommerce site by a huge 15%. Toward the end of November, the operational forecasting algorithm predicted a peak Christmas intensity that was 20% higher than the gut estimation of both the sales team and the operational managers. With Curling having convinced all stakeholders of its accuracy, the decision was made to hire 50 extra cleaning staff and purchase 100 extra iPhones within 48 hours. The forecast proved to be uncannily accurate (correct within two bookings out of around 500), so Curling’s actions prevented a huge operational failure over onefinestay’s busiest period. On the technology side, Curling’s team has built up a scalable data infrastructure that encourages a data-driven culture across the whole business.

33. Mark Seymour, CTO, Future Facilities

Mark Seymour has more than 30 years of data centre simulation and measurement experience. Last year, he played a leading role in the Green Grid’s development of a new metric (Performance Indicator) designed to assess and visualise data centre efficiency, risk and cooling performance. His work resulting in the development of a browser-based tool designed to aid adoption by providing a simple way to visualise PI data. At its most advanced, PI provides a framework to assess the effects of changes before they are implemented, whether from IT deployments or the installation of infrastructure changes such as containment. This gives the business the ability to understand how safe any IT expansion will be, how to best utilise the design capacity or run through ‘what if’ scenarios to develop strategies for managing issues before they arise. Through his work with the Green Grid, Mark is helping to create innovation that could potentially impact many aspects of life and commerce, by providing engineers with the tools they need to ensure efficient storage and supply of the exponentially increasing quantities of data our society demands.

34. Martin Moran, Senior Vice President and General Manager, EMEA,

Using data analytics, machine learning and artificial intelligence, allows businesses to better communicate, gamify, predict and visualise the entire sales process, and deliver more informed and valuable services to customers. As lead of the company’s regional growth in the EMEA region, Martin Moran has helped create a generation of sales reps who are better equipped, better engaged and more effective than ever before thanks to the use of data and predictive analytics. Previously, he had a key role in building Salesforce’s presence in EMEA and helped grow the business to $300 million in annual revenue. Moran has championed the use of new, data-driven technologies to accelerate the sales process. Unlike other sales tool on the market which claim to use artificial intelligence,’s Neuralytics platform analyses over 100 billion sales interactions, 110 million buyer profiles and thousands of individual data points. This vast amount of data means that the platform learns from past interactions and makes recommendations based on this.

35. Miriam Vizvary, Head of Data, WRB Underwriting

When Miriam Vizvary joined WRB Underwriting, the company had an overinflated team in place, using two BI technologies. She has worked to create a leaner team with leaner processes in place and has decommissioned one of the BI technologies, resulting in big savings not only for licenses but internal support costs as well. Influenced by previous experiences, her approach is agile and for every request she questions where change is really necessary. Vizvary is executing a vision for the company where users have access to accurate and up-to-date information that they need to make their decisions. ‘With very little investment we will start to contribute to bringing in revenue, not just be a cost,’ she says. ‘I have a recently hired new and hungry team with the correct mindset and we are on our way of making this vision a reality.’

36. Omar Khan, Data and Technology Director, MEC

Omar Khan is responsible for driving the programmatic agenda at media agency MEC and integrating all of its media data to provide better targeting, buying decisions and live reporting for its clients. This involves looking at how different data sets can drive deeper insights for campaigns performance increase. With significant exposure to the commercial, operational and technical side of the digital business, Khan brings together the elements required for implementing digital transformation. MEC has gone through a big cultural and technology change, not only in the way it uses data to make effective business decisions but also building products that have transformed the processes that mix well with an agile data culture. This has allowed teams to concentrate on strategic decisions and invest time saved by data automation in high-value tasks. There has been a better ROI on technology and business intelligence. A key focus for the last couple of years was identifying and uncovering opportunities, helping MEC teams to overcome operational challenges they face every day when delivering services to clients. Operational efficiencies were seen in media plan management, client budget reporting, cross-channel digital reporting and workflow management. By automating the digital media planning process, the data doesn’t lie with the developers anymore and reducing manual effort in ad operations has saved over £75,000 in costs and 50% in time. Meanwhile, the development of a cross-channel digital reporting tool with automated data collection and configuration of several data sources has saved almost 70% of planners’ time in over 21 markets, resulting in cost savings of more than £150,000.

37. Ozkan Aykut Demir, Co-Founder, Pisano

Pisano, co-founded by Ozkan Aykut Demir, is a web-based platform for enterprises and customers to communicate without space or time limitations. The Pisano platform is built feedback collection, customer data analysis and customer relationship management (CRM) assistance. Pisano currently has 220 unique client companies from 12 different verticals. Previous clients include McDonald’s (reintroduction of apple pie to Turkish market), BP (new car air freshener smell chosen by customers) and World Bank (Syrian refugees in Turkey pilot survey project). An average Pisano survey takes less than 30 seconds, has fewer than five questions, can be served to more than 30,000 people at a fixed cost, and requires just taps on the touchscreen.

38. Paul Alexander, Group CEO, Beyond Analysis

Paul Alexander created Beyond Analysis in 2007 with the goal of raising the metabolic rate of every company it works with, making them faster, more dynamic, more competitive and more profitable. He and his team help businesses transform by putting their data to work. They identify and prioritise the most relevant data so businesses can start taking actions instead of being overwhelmed by the sheer scale of the data they have. Alexander has grown the business into a highly successful and internationally recognised firm since its inception in 2007. He is considered an industry expert and trusted advisor to 150 high-profile clients. His experience also includes being chairman of C6, a non-executive director for both Parcel for Me Ltd and Deal Group Media Plc, and global head of consumer markets for dunnhumby. He stepped back into the limelight last year after adopting two boys in 2014. He oversaw Beyond Analysis’s launch in the Indian subcontinent in early 2017.

39. Paul Riordan, Vice President of Sales Operations and Transformation, Unify

Paul Riordan has shown a solid approach to transforming critical channel relationships using technologies at the forefront of data management to make a positive impact on the bottom line. With a clear business goal in place to capture 100% of customer installed base data in order to maximise revenues, retention and satisfaction in a single global solution, he took on a ground-breaking approach to identify new ways to drive intelligence across the Unify channel. In order to enhance decision making and generate valuable insight around previously ignored silos of data, Riordan took the lead on controlling the information explosion within the partner network, researching the market and ultimately establishing an early-adopter relationship with Zyme, a vendor offering channel data management.

40. Phil Blades, Chief Services Officer, Hubble

For more than two and a half decades, Phil Blades has led and implemented technological advancements for companies across the UK and the world, including Union Bank of Switzerland, Capgemini and now the UK-based Hubble, where he has been a critical part of the technical milestones at the company. Achieving a quick time to value is critical for the enterprise, so Blades introduced a foundational stage to the onboarding process so customers can experience benefits of the software from the start. This makes customers more willing to continue to the next stages of implementation. Once they reach the foundation stage and are seeing value, the Hubble team commences implementation of more specific requests. This process has lead to 200% growth in year-over-year analytics deals for Hubble and gained the attention of industry analysts who praise the company for being the one vendor known for the quickest time to value. Blades has made huge improvements in design, capability and stability to accelerate Hubble clients’ data, allowing them access to key insights in real-time. Because of a maniacal focus on customer success, Blades and his team are constantly iterating and innovating to create solutions for clients. During development, Phil implemented internal processes that allows Hubble to surmount hurdles for its 900+ customers and make changes to the product in as little as three weeks on a consistent basis. This insistence on problem solving has influenced Hubble’s leading role in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for highest customer satisfaction among FCPM vendors.

41. Phil Bridge, UK Managing Director, Kroll Ontrack

In early 2016 Kroll Ontrack, led by Phil Bridge in the UK, launched a new service called Ontrack DataAdvisor – a revolutionary approach to manage legacy data on tapes that saves fees relating to maintaining various types of back-up software and hardware. It also allows for more targeted data retrievals, which has a direct impact on the volume of data that needs to be churned through. Technical teams are able to reduce the time taken to extract relevant data, knowing exactly where to aim their efforts for a specific request. Ontrack DataAdvisor can support companies in the management and access of their legacy data by providing savings in costs of storage, man-hours and technical accessibility, and by preventing costly fines should the company not be able to comply with regulatory demands.

42. Robert Goodwin, Data Strategy Director, Lida

Data strategy, CRM and innovation are the key focus for Robert Goodwin, who leads on the O2 account for Lida. Goodwin’s overall emphasis is to enable the numerous data sources involved in O2’s marketing activity – via multiple database tools, forecasting, modelling and dashboard visualisations, generating data led strategies – to support brand, creative and overall business results. In a project for O2’s Priority Moments, Goodwin used data innovation to combine the wealth of information on consumer topics and interests – identifying key content that consumers are likely to engage with – with known response behaviour (previous Priority purchases, usage and channel engagement data). This drove the business to become consumer-first in offer generation, rather than offer-led. This has started the personalised journey for Priority, with dynamic offer content based on an individual’s, interest, affinities and usage.

43. Ryan Gallagher, CEO and Founder, IOVOX

Ryan Gallagher co-founded IOVOX with his wife Belinda in 2007 in London, and has since taken the business to California. Prior to this, his expertise varied from Silicon Valley start-ups to global enterprises. He served as chief technology officer of Silicon Valley start-up Vazu, after having held a wide variety of positions in over 15 years at companies such as KPN Qwest, Compaq and Alstom Holdings. He helped pioneer streaming media over the internet with technology partners like Inktomi, Cacheflow and NetApps. Today, IOVOX’s operations are still family lead, with Belinda supporting business functions such as sales and marketing in addition to her board role. The founders are now joined by several other directors as part of their global expansion. Typically, IOVOX works closely with marketers to maximise ROI by allocating unique numbers to new and existing AdWords campaigns. Calls are tracked from the search engine results page on the campaign, or on the ad group level for AdWords call extensions and Google Click to Call. Using the call analytics IOVOX provides, organisations can track and optimise their ad spend, by identifying which campaigns are generating the most calls, and therefore the most revenue. Its customers include PizzaExpress, PagesJaunes, Zoopla, Bookatable, Gumtree and AutoTrader.

44. Simon Gratton, CTO and Founder, CTO Advisors

A global bank’s data architecture and platform strategy was hindering its ability to compete in the digital age. The approach was to implement new data-centric services across all business functions for customer data quality, cloud, identity management, API, agile, AI and machine learning. Simon Gratton supported initially as interim global head of data architecture. After two months, he moved into a global data and integration design CTO capacity to align the design across five new data programmes (big data, integration, finance & risk, customer 360 strategy and data modernisation). For his final few months with the bank, Gratton led the technical design of the customer 360 strategy which looked to unify customer and party information across several countries into a single solution that was compliant and could scale to leverage developments with big data and other emerging technology.

45. Stacie Maxey, Director of Database Marketing, Domestic & General

Stacie Maxey is an expert at helping the C-suite to realise the importance of data in the business and therefore changing the culture of an organisation. Having held analytics and database marketing roles for several high-profile financial institutions, she has been responsible for spearheading a number of successful data technologies. As the analytics manager for one of the UK’s largest insurance firms, LV=, Stacie led the implementation of a multi-channel marketing solution from BlueVenn that replaced several inefficient legacy systems. The solution helped improve campaign response rates by 81% and uplift ‘good leads’ by 15%. In her current role, she takes on much of the operational work. As well as helping to deliver marketing campaigns, her focus is on using customer analytics to learn more about Domestic & General’s customers – not just to establish who they are and what they do, but align them with the products that D&G provide and the offers best suited to each customer. To champion this shift from ‘product centric’ to ‘customer-centric’ marketing, Maxey knew she had a key role in bringing about a cultural change. This required preaching to the unconverted to help them to see things through a ‘customer lens’, and an acknowledgement that starting with simpler concepts is the best way to push change through.

46. The ‘WISER’ (Welsh Water Information Strategy Enterprise Roadmap) Team, Dwr Cymru Welsh Water

The pressure on Dwr Cymru Welsh Water (DCWW) today are ever increasing, including the need to comply with regulatory and industry standards, reduce cost and improve efficiencies, meet customer expectations, and operate in an uncertain and constantly changing economy. To be able to combat these pressures, DCWW must rely on consistent, accurate and reliable data to govern the business. It has embarked on a data strategy journey referred to as ‘WISER’ to constructively and economically address data issues and embed a data governance culture, where data becomes part of everyone’s responsibility by democratising data. To be successful, WISER started small and has taken achievable steps that can be measured along the way. It is providing DCWW with a quality culture to bolster solid practices and infrastructure that will make future data projects more successful and more integrated with the rest of the business. Data is now treated as a corporate asset, funded as a corporate asset and managed as a corporate asset. As part of WISER, DCWW is establishing a data organisation to move from a reactive organisation to one that has a unified data strategy and sufficient faith in the data to automate many business processes and data models, freeing up valuable resources to work on other strategic initiatives. The data strategy roadmap that has been developed as part of WISER provides a set of over 50 opportunities that are sequenced to establish responsibility then develop governance and capability, while building corporate awareness of the value data has to the business.

47. Tim Carmichael, Chief Data Officer, British Army

As the first chief data officer for the British Army, Tim Carmichael is delivering transformational change to the way the army addresses its most strategically important decisions, bringing timely and relevant data to bear to underpin the work of its main board, senior leaders and operational commanders. Examples of his achievements for the British Army include the first enterprise-wide strategic management information pack for the main board, his use of predictive analytics to support operational effectiveness, and his evangelising for cultural change. He has created and developed the role of CDO for the British Army and has become a key senior adviser to the main board. Entirely self-taught, he has initiated transformational change at the enterprise level and has enhanced strategic evidence-based decision-making. Doing all this in the context of extreme financial constraints makes his achievements in such a short time all the more impressive.

48. Tim Vine, European Head of Trade Credit, Dun & Bradstreet

For centuries, financial decision makers have used certain data sources in order to make decisions involving risk. Fast forward to the here and now, and companies require a raft of data from different sources in order to make sound financial corporate decisions affecting the growth of a business. This new form of non-traditional data sourcing is called programmatic contextual data and Dun & Bradstreet has invested heavily in smart data systems. Tim Vine leads the company’s trade credit division in Europe. Dun & Bradstreet’s global commercial database of 265 million business records is bigger than any other company. Its use of programmatic contextual data brings in unprecedented amounts of additional content that would otherwise take a lot of time to manually find the golden nuggets a company is looking for. It connects the dots, making sure the company’s traditional data, non-traditional data and a company’s own data is in one manageable place makes for a more automated, efficient and cheaper system.

49. Yasmeen Ahmad, Practice Partner Analytic Business Consulting, Teradata

Yasmeen Ahmad’s expertise in big data and data science means she now works with leading global companies to identify their current challenges and redefine these in an analytical context. She is responsible for an advanced analytics and data science practice in the UK and Ireland which requires her to use the skills of her team to generate new revenue streams by creating greater demand for data and analytics consulting. This role has required development of a go-to-market sales strategy, training the sales teams and putting into practice an agile delivery model, while building a multi-cultural, cross-functional team of data and analytics practitioners. Providing oversight for big data and data science-related projects, Ahmad has delivered value to customers by solving complex business problems, enabled through scalable technology. In particular, her work focuses on how businesses can exploit new or untapped sources of data, alongside novel analytical techniques, in order to deliver tangible return on investment. As one of the leading forces behind Teradata’s launch of ‘insights-as-a-service’, Ahmad’s role has been fundamental to developing and explaining the proposition.

50. Yorkshire Building Society’s data governance team

In 2013 the YBS Group identified the need to formalise its organisational data governance structure and practices. This entailed moving away from functional data management practices by implementing an accountability structure, policies, roles and responsibilities, and repeatable processes. A relatively small team of three, growing to six, took on the role of a data governance programme office to develop and drive the data governance agenda.  In order to support the requirement for fit for purpose data resulting from efficient processes, the team set out to achieve collaboration across silos with consistency of approach and execution, establishing a structure to drive a culture of change. Despite starting from a very low base in terms of an understanding for the need to change, with limited resources, the programme influenced and introduced a lot of change in a relatively short period of time at Yorkshire Building Society. The changes have resulted in the improved understanding of the importance of data and the need for data to be managed in alignment with business objectives.

Avatar photo

Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

Related Topics

Data Leadership