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Andy Hill, Chief Data Officer, Unilever

Please describe your career to date

 

I have been fortunate to work with some amazing people at two outstanding companies, with lots of opportunities to go overseas; living and working in the UK, Italy, and in North America and travelling to many countries around the world as part of my job. I studied Geography at Oxford in the early 90s as I was always fascinated with the relationship between people, space, and time and how they play out. 

I joined dunnhumby in 1995 – an early start-up at the time – looking to explore how to use the first loyalty card data with Tesco, and I was intrigued with the possibilities. I spent 22 years at dunnhumby and moved through the organisation in a variety of technical and commercial roles, helping to grow the company from a feisty start-up into the world’s leading customer science company. Notable roles were Solutions Director for the UK and Ireland, Chief Operating Officer Italy, and Chief Operating Officer of dunnhumby North America, based in Chicago. 

I have been the Chief Data Officer for Unilever since 2017. I am privileged to lead a large team of data experts (Data Scientists, Data Engineers, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Automation experts, and more). The team is supported through our hybrid operating model of global centres of excellence, data and solution factories, combined with local teams in our top geographic markets. My ambition at Unilever is to power sustainable business growth through the intelligent application of trusted data and AI enterprise-wide to deliver on Unilever’s purpose of making sustainable living commonplace.

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

 

At Unilever, we have been building our skills and upweighting our expert teams over the years. Across our geographies, our team includes 600+ data and data science experts with machine learning (ML) PhDs or geospatial techniques in the business. We are delivering key programmes to both raise the floor of data literacy and raise the ceiling of data expertise across Unilever. This includes a comprehensive suite of training, from demystifying analytics to advanced Masters-level courses in ML and Intelligent Automation, with over 10,000 people being trained across Unilever over the last two years. With the rapid development of AI – particularly in the last 12 months with generative AI (genAI) – we need to keep developing our skills and competencies so that we can continue to lead this for the business; we now have experts in Graph Databases, genAI builds and AI Assurance. 

We have been upskilling our colleagues across Unilever on genAI; from a learning about the basics of AI course, through to ‘prompt engineering’ and AI assurance. We have established an AI centre of excellence, pioneered AI assurance in the industry, and are one of the first to establish customer AI environments. We are helping our employees on how to use AI to drive differentiation and productivity in a safe, responsible, and legal way. So far, we have trained a total of 11,000 colleagues in our organisation and have exciting plans for 2024. Along with formal training, we have developed a series of other campaigns to excite and inspire our people. This include our annual company-wide DigiChallenge which pulls together teams and asks them to tackle a Unilever-based problem – this year’s challenge involved using our own GPT Playground and over 700 people participated.

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?

My vision is to make Unilever a data-intelligent company, where every decision and action is powered by the best data and advanced analytics to deliver Unilever’s action plan of driving growth and unlocking potential. We want to combine the best of human and machine intelligence to augment everything we do with data; to drive superior customer experiences, build stronger purpose-led brands, and free up our time to spend innovating. 

As a business we continue to generate and use more data, advanced analytics and AI as we further digitise our operations to drive efficiency and speed, expand into more digital channels, and engage with our consumers in more personalised, timely and relevant ways to drive connection and growth. Today, we have over 400 AI systems deployed across the company driving over €1 billion in value. We have established a world-class data platform that serves at the heart of our digital ecosystem supporting 150 Analytics products, across 51 markets and our user community of 100,000 employees. Just last December, we launched the FMCG industries first AI Lab in Toronto, Canada, to pioneer research into the application of AI in our business.

 

The data and analytics team play a critical role in this, partnering across all parts of our business to empower people with the right data and insights, at the right time, to make smarter and faster decisions. 
My team’s north star is that “Data with Purpose Delivers”, and our purpose is to power sustainable business growth through the intelligent application of trusted data and AI, enterprise wide. This will better enable Unilever to outperform our competitors, empower our employees, and deliver on our commitments to our stakeholders and our planet.

Andy Hill
has been included in:
  • 100 Brands 2023 (EMEA)
  • 100 Brands 2024 (EMEA)
  • No. 1 100 Brands 2022 (EMEA)
  • No. 8 100 Brands 2021 (EMEA)