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George McCrea

George McCrea, Defence Data and Analytics Platform – Lead Military Liaison, Defence Digital Foundry

Describe your career to date

I have spent 17 years in the military constantly working with data, creating it, assessing it, and providing options for commanders to make decisions from it, and this was just in the first half of my career before I actually realised the full power of data. In 2014, I studied for my MSc in Geospatial Intelligence which had a heavy focus on data, and in particular spatial data. I have held three distinctly different spatial data leadership roles and one generalist date leadership role since. In each of these roles I have advocated for the greater understanding and appreciation of the competitive advantage that can be brought to bear with data, and since being the joint first military person to be listed in the DataIQ 100, I have used this platform to not only outwardly sell how the MOD is putting data at the heart of everything, but also using it to draw upon a new network to share knowledge, experiences, and leadership about issues that we face. My advocacy for data and leadership experience is why I was actively recruited for my new role that sees me at the heart of a wider programme for the MOD, which is being the military lad for the Defence Data and Analytics Platform (DDAP). Though new to the role and department, I have already delivered effect in lining up the two largest consumers (by volume) of data in the MOD with the platform that has been actively used in the most current operations.

Data literacy is a key enabler of the value and impact from data. How are you approaching this within your organisation?

Since moving roles last summer, I am now supporting the integration of data from across Defence in the new Defence Data and Analytics platform. Being the only military member of the team, I am charged with engaging with senior leaders from across all three armed services and their data teams. The identification of the differing levels of literacy is key to enabling this and unlocking the power of data to full effect; there are a number of programmes and processes in place to realise this potential. Working closely with the policy department of the CDO Office, we are looking to take a holistic vertical and horizontal approach to the multi-faceted requirements for data literacy. Using the handrail of people-process-data-tech (in that order), we are focusing on understanding what skills the various different personas need across Defence, and part of the key to unlocking this is getting the buy in from senior, non-data leaders to drive the initiatives. There is a rampant desire to make use of data across the organisation, now we need to harness this desire and ensure that people are appropriately trained and provided with the opportunities to gain skills. A real wish this year would be to do a data hackathon to upskill a number of military people to go and be our data pathfinders across Defence. I have also been asked to speak at numerous public sector and commercial events about how in my time as the Geo Chief of Staff we put data literacy at the heart of our business strategy, funding additional MSc students along the way. I have also been central to the pushing of hybrid (military, civil servant, contractor) data teams to the point of need in a Forward Data Support concept.

Have you set out a vision for data? If so, what is it aiming for and does it embrace the whole organisation or just the data function?       

The Royal Engineer’s Geographic business strategy put data as the cornerstone of success for this unique capability moving forward. But it was imperative that we did not focus on those already actively dealing with data, we needed to bring all those in Defences skills up and started to explore the ways to create spatial data interactive learning courses for the whole of defence. Separately to this, I have used the platform and network enabled by DataIQ to make the vital strategic linkage between Alteryx’s SparkEd leader Libby Duane Adams and the TechVets military charity CEO James Murphy, so looking at this from an entire function perspective, this will enable veterans, those still serving and their families to get three months free data training from Alteryx and, at the end of it for those searching for employment, Alteryx will introduce them to users. This is more a personal rather than professional vision for data, but one for which I am very proud to have been the instigator of. With 22 people in the first cohort, and the second one starting in January already fully subscribed, I feel that I have had a positive impact in the journey of democratisation of data literacy while also providing the altruistic element of supporting current and former colleagues.

George McCrea
George McCrea
has been included in:
  • 100 Brands 2023 (EMEA)
  • No.10 100 Brands 2022 (EMEA)
  • No.10 100 Brands 2024 (EMEA)