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Helen Crooks, Chief Data Officer, Ofgem

How is your organisation using data and analytics to support the corporate vision and purpose?


Reaching net zero carbon emissions in the UK by 2050 requires a revolution in the energy system, affecting how we generate, distribute and use energy. These changes can only be achieved through the dynamic use of data across not only the energy industry, but everything connected to it, from electric vehicles to industrial users. Whilst in early stages of developing data strategy and capability, Ofgem’s vision and purpose clearly demand expertise in data science, AI and cultural change. We’re working closely with industry and government to ensure a joined-up approach to unlocking the benefits of a digitally enabled energy sector.


2020 was a year like no other – how did it impact on your planned activities and what unplanned ones did you have to introduce?


2020 was a year of change for me, moving to work as a non-executive advisor as well as looking for that next challenge – one which would both stretch the opportunity for excellence with data, but also one which has a reward far greater in using data for good and not just commercial gain. I am lucky to have finished the year with three major challenging roles – CDO for Ofgem, Ambassador for AI and the Data Economy for Innovate UK and non-executive director for the UK Parliament.


Looking forward to 2021, what are your expectations for data and analytics within your organisation?


2021 will be an exciting year for Ofgem, laying the foundation for how regulation in the energy sector can radically change in support of climate change targets through the harnessing the power of data and analytics. We are starting with the vision then demonstrating the “how?” by the practical application of key data capabilities. But as always, it will depend on aligning that vision with budget and achievability. In the first half of 2021, Ofgem will be launching new data and digitalisation standards emphasising greater openness of data and addressing data quality


Is data for good part of your personal or business agenda for 2021? If so, what form will it take?


The whole ethos of net-zero demands that data is accessible, open and sharable ‘for good’. The need for energy data to be open is a core part of new regulatory oversight, being consulted upon and required of all businesses operating in the industry. 


What has been your path to power?


I’ve been lucky to have a long career in data – 37 years in fact.


I am a data techie at heart, working for Oracle as the UK technical expert in the 1980s when they were rapidly growing and delivering a number of solutions for different industry areas.


Having left Oracle, I worked as an independent specialist. It was during this time that I focused on business data strategies in retail, travel and telcos. This gave me a real insight to the opportunity for business growth from data.


One of my career highs was working at dunnhumby in the 1990s. I joined Clive Humby and Edwina Dunn, as a start-up, working out of their home to create the platforms that ultimately supported the launch of the Tesco Clubcard. As technical director, I was responsible for all of the technology platforms and data designs. 


Following dunnhumby, I had lead roles at both Virgin Media and Tesco, being accountable for data strategy and customer data. 


More recently, I was CDO for Lloyd’s of London, the global specialist insurance market, and I am now CDO for UK energy regulator Ofgem as well as Ambassador for AI and the Data Economy for Innovate UK and non-executive director for the UK Parliament.


What is the proudest achievement of your career to date?


There’s a few to choose from – designing the first ever loyalty system for Tesco Clubcard that became the industry standard, achieving major change in global insights and understanding of opportunity with data for the London insurance market or creating the ability for Virgin Media to massively improve their customer satisfaction scores and operating revenues. Very hard to choose one!


Tell us about a career goal or a purpose for your organisation that you are pursuing?


Supporting a complex industry achieving one of the most challenging and important global goals of our age. 


How closely aligned to the business are data and analytics both within your own organisation and at an industry level? What helps to bring the two closer together?


Creating a new function as an organisation’s CDO in a green field means I am able to align data and analytics capability from the start. It is also of benefit that the UK Government strongly sees the need for data and digital integration across departments and industry and is actively supporting investment in both strategy and specific data opportunities. One thing is for sure, we are stronger together and there is a real drive of collaboration across government bodies, public sector and industry in achieving exceptional data-driven results.


What is your view on how to develop a data culture in an organisation, building out data literacy and creating a data-first mindset?


This is a challenge so many organisations have faced and where there are many external resources you can call on for help. There are free to use resources, peer groups, specialist teams and academia – so you are not on your own and you do not have to develop an approach from scratch unless you really want to. Find the one(s) that work for your organisation and its inherent culture.

Helen Crooks
has been included in:
  • 100 Brands 2019 (EMEA)
  • 100 Influencers 2021 (EMEA)