'In An Ideal World, The Data Science Team Would Be Embedded Close To The Business'

Interview with Peter Jackson, CDO of Southern Water


Peter is Chief Data Officer at Southern Water, a new post within the organisation tasked with developing and delivering a data strategy for the organisation which supplies 524 million litres of drinking water each day. Previously, Peter was Head of Data at The Pensions Regulator (TPR), which regulates the pensions and automatic enrolment in the UK. Before joining TPR Peter spent 17 years providing Data Strategy consultancy across the not for profit sector, financial services, and FMCG working with large multi-national organisations and blue chip brands.

Peter is a specialist in Data Strategy, Data Technologies, Master Data Management Strategies, Data Governance Frameworks, GDPR and Data Science Strategies.

We sat down with him ahead of his presentation at the Predictive Analytics Innovation Summit, which takes place in London this March 21-22.

What first sparked your interest in analytics?

I have long been interested in statistics and statistical analysis and modeling and the power of these to improve decision making.

How important is establishing a data-driven culture? 

Installing a data-driven culture is of key importance. Data is an asset that must be looked after and valued by the whole business. 

What do you think is the most important thing companies can do to instil one?

Appointing a Chief Data Officer is a very clear signal to a business that it is taking data seriously and that the culture is changing.

How do you see data scientist role changing in the future and how do you think machine learning will impact their role? 

I think the data scientist role will expand in numbers and across businesses. Data scientists will need to understand the business drivers and be capable of providing the narrative around their work and insights. 

Will data scientists themselves see their work automated?

To an extent, some work will be automated, but there are always new boundaries to be pushed and explored.

Is there a skills gap in data science? 

At present, there probably is a skills shortage, but this will fill in time, perhaps through more automation or quicker development environments or better data management. 

What can we do to fill it at the current time?

Often the best way to fill the current gaps is through the upskilling of internal resources. They understand the data and the business. Alternatively, the gap can be filled with Analytics-as-a-Service.

Is a data science team better centralized or decentralized? Why?

In an ideal world, the data science team would be embedded close to the business. However, whilst a data science capability is being built within a business it may be pragmatic to centralize and create a centre of excellence to upskill quickly.

What new technologies and approaches to data strategy should we watch out for in data analytics in 2018?

Analytics as a Service/Analytics as a Platform

What will you be discussing in your presentation?

Building a Data team to transform a business.

Many businesses desire to become data-driven, or want to deliver data/digital transformation, but how do you size and shape and Data Team to enable the transformation? As CDO at Southern Water, I've built a Data Team to transform the approach and use of data within the business, and will share with you my strategy, the delivery and the outcomes.

You can hear more from Peter, as well as other industry experts, at the Predictive Analytics Innovation Summit. View the full agenda here.


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