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Johanna Hutchinson, Chief Data Officer, BAE Systems

Describe your career to date

In August 2023 I moved into the Global Chief Data Officer role for BAE Systems. It is a new role for the organisation and sits in our global head office under the Chief Technology Innovation Officer.

BAE Systems is a FTSE 50 manufacturing firm, with a long history of delivering military platforms. The opportunity to mobilise, improve, and advance our data estate, while simultaneously embedding analytics and AI across a 90,000-strong workforce and delivering a huge backlog of orders is vast, complicated, and hugely exciting.

Prior to this post, I led data transformations and built data teams to enable analytics for decision making in government. During my 12 years in this role, I was able to implement significant change to public service: most notably leading the delivery of data and analytical products for decision making during the coronavirus pandemic.

Many of the metrics that became commonly understood at this time – such as R-value, prevalence curves, travel corridors, and roadmaps out of lockdown – came from my directorate.

Additionally, I built programmes in wastewater surveillance to detect disease across communities and the National Biosurveillance Network, designing the new network to mobilise insight from across government in the advent of a national security incident.

I have a PhD in Psychology from the University of Liverpool, and I am a firm believer that being trained as a scientist in behaviour is a superpower as a CDO.

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

The collective achievement of civil service teams across the Covid response was equipping the public with an understanding of how data and analysis was used to assess the impact of the pandemic, and how policy interventions changed the rates of disease prevalence.

Our nation of armchair epidemiologists expressed opinions based on the interpretation of insights on the Covid dashboard, R-value, and charts shown on the 5pm briefing; remember phrases such as “data not dates” and “turn the curve”?

Using my learnings from the creation and use of these products, my challenge in 2024 is to build and embed a programme of data literacy in BAE Systems: an organisation of 90,000 spanning a broad range of professions, generations, and data literacy.

Digital enablement is at the heart of transformation in 2024. The successful uptake and adoption of our new ways of working will be based on the training coming from our digital academy. I am pitching for this to be sponsored by our executive committee, which I hope will bring an increased focus on the enhancement of data literacy across the varied roles, grades, and aptitude throughout the business.

What are the key challenges to your data function that you are facing as its leader?

The biggest challenge will be balancing the scale of digital transformation while making sure that the basics of data standards and data quality stay embedded in the programmes that enable further integration of data between systems.

This comes at a time of high demand delivery, due to the geopolitical environment, as well as an increasing backlog of contracts and a skills shortage in data, digital, and engineering. The question is how will we embed new workflow processes when our workforce is under such pressure to deliver?

Johanna Hutchinson
has been included in:
  • 100 Brands 2019 (EMEA)
  • 100 Brands 2020 (EMEA)
  • 100 Brands 2022 (EMEA)
  • No. 3 100 Brands 2021 (EMEA)
  • No. 6 100 Brands 2024 (EMEA)