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Andy Isenman, Head of Technology, Cloud and Data, Heathrow Airport

Describe your career to date

 

I have been in technology transformation for ten years, in a career that has spanned web, mobile, social, and cloud. The pace of change and the transformative effects of data have been both inspiring and daunting in equal measure, and I am incredibly proud to have led this work.

In the last two years, I have led the creation of our vision, authored Heathrow’s first data strategy, and established a hub-and-spoke model linking our strategy to the functions that benefit from it. That department has delivered significant improvements in recruitment, with a 15% reduction in staff churn.

I created a centralised and fit-for-purpose learning programme for all data professionals, delivered the first draft of Heathrow’s data and AI strategy, made significant improvements to our data governance posture, and built a cross-functional data science capability. I am currently working on Heathrow’s 2024 and beyond data roadmap, due to be endorsed by our recently appointed Chief Executive Officer.

 

Giving back is important to me. I enjoy attending and contributing to the DataIQ discussions. I also mentor three aspiring data professionals, both inside and outside of Heathrow. Last year I judged the DataIQ Awards and this year I am a judge in the Atkins Realtis Young Data Leaders Awards. I have also recently volunteered my mentorship expertise to DataIQ to support leaders bridge the gap.

I take a leadership role in Heathrow’s neurodiversity network, promoting the value of diverse thought and thinking that neurodiversity brings and how it benefits the data community. I am dyslexic myself.

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

 

Data literacy takes time, and we are closing out year two of our data transformation journey. This means data literacy is still front and centre on our journey; we see data literacy as a journey rather than a destination.

 

One of the main reasons for this is data literacy is driven by the pace at which industry must keep up, and with the changes topics such as generative AI create. We have moved from the cliched phrase of data-driven to a more mature position of questioning how data can drive our business outcomes. At a macro level we use the inside-out and outside-in model described in Being Data Literate to consider our data literacy. We see this model as an infinite loop.

From an inside-out view, it is important that the data team not only provide the insight, but also how to bring it to bear in their stakeholders’ decision making. Outside-in is arguably more important as without business context, insight is significantly diminished. Open mindedness when accepting business challenges is key to successful engagements and preconceptions must be challenged at every step of the process. The infinite loop of data literacy is powered as much by a data department’s ability to be business literate as it is for the business to be literate in data.

Heathrow looks at where to prioritise data literacy by viewing stakeholders through a change-curve lens. We know not all stakeholders are ready for the journey or will only go on the journey if endorsed by their peer groups. Conversely, early adopters can lead the way. We use this method to identify those who can accelerate the loop to drive data literacy faster and who they will bring on the journey.

What stage has your organisation reached on its data maturity journey?

Through the DataIQ leaders’ assessments, which Heathrow uses to benchmark our organisation’s data maturity, we have established that from a management perspective we are performing well with separate reporting lines to technology, have strong stakeholder relationships and well-integrated technology, are aligned with corporate values led by a strong focus on ethics, and we have a vision and a strategy in place that is regularly communicated within the business, is sourced from a wide range of stakeholders and is under regular review.

We also have strong foundational data-governance practices and compliance by design. Governance and compliance have clear reporting lines at Heathrow. We encourage a continuous improvement culture and are working hard on data quality, with a clear understanding of what we want to achieve.

 

Our focus is also to measure the success of our technology through adoption and the value generated, and we see year-on-year growth in both areas. We have been responsive in the technologies we provide, listening to customer feedback and market direction.

 

We have full integration with our platform developer partner Adatis, working as an extension of our in-house technical team, to drive cost-effectiveness and the benefit of wider industry knowledge. In leading the team, I demonstrate Heathrow’s corporate values, articulate a clear vision, take accountability for our strategy, and communicate clearly, while considering ethics and risks in my decision making.

Andy Isenman
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