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Paul Kelly, Vice President – Digital, Data and Analytics, PepsiCo Europe

What has been your path to power?


I’ve had a fairly atypical path for a data leader in that most of my career has been spent in business and strategy versus technical roles. My early career was mainly spent in consulting, followed by an MBA in Australia. After business school I spent three years with the Boston Consulting Group in London, working mainly on clients in the retail and consumer goods sectors.


I left consulting in 2010 looking for a role in an operating business, in preference to a classic commercial strategy exit. My first five years in PepsiCo were in our UK business leading revenue management and commercial teams. That period gave me a deep grounding in how our company works, which has been invaluable.


In 2016 I moved to Geneva to lead the strategy group for Europe. That gave me a broad experience in working across a range of different geographies and the full extent of the PepsiCo portfolio. It’s also when I caught the data “bug” in that I could clearly see how transformational data and analytics were becoming for the CPG industry.


From that point on, my career has largely been about driving the data and analytics agenda within PepsiCo. I did this initially from an insights role, then in 2019 we created a dedicated advanced analytics group to build and scale data products. Most recently, we have become part of the strategy and transformation function and my role has expanded to include co-ordination of the wider digital transformation agenda.

What impact has the pandemic had on the role of data in your company / organisation?


The pandemic – and the way that recovery has been phased and uneven across geographies – has been a huge accelerator. That’s logical. The business context has changed so radically that business intuition created pre-pandemic can no longer be relied on to the same extent as before, and robust data becomes critical to decision making across the total value chain. For a consumer goods company that sits at the forefront of changing in consumer trends, shopping behaviors and retail channels, that’s been further exacerbated.


The pandemic has accelerated digital transformation across the globe, bringing new opportunities to reach consumers, engage employees and drive efficiency and sustainability. So data has played a crucial role in ensuring the continuity of business across Europe throughout the crisis.


For example, we’ve used store data (we call this StoreDNA) extensively throughout the pandemic to focus our sales teams on outlets that we know are open for business and that we can predict will see growing sales due to changing shopping patterns, for example due to staycation or home working trends.


The net impact of the pandemic is that business leaders have become much more receptive to leveraging data tools. That’s a trend that won’t be reversed as we return to “normal”.

Does data now have a seat at the table during strategic discussions? If not, what will it take to get it there?


Yes, this is categorically the case in PepsiCo. Digital, data and analytics is one of the key planks of the “stronger” pillar of the our better/faster/stronger strategy and is a fundamental enabler for the future growth of our business. It’s also key to PepsiCo Positive, our sustainability program, where data and analytics are guiding sustainable agriculture and water use reduction programs amongst many other initiatives.


In Europe specifically, I sit on both our marketing and commercial leadership teams, and am also part of our global demand accelerator leadership. That gives data a seat at the table, and means that we can integrate our roadmap with the key business programs that are driving top line acceleration for PepsiCo Europe.


What are your key areas of focus for data and analytics in 2022?


The key focus will always be on consumer-centricity, execution excellence and value realisation. We have a number of programs that are at critical mass across our key markets and we need to make sure that they integrate deeply into business processes and systems. One example is our Personalisation@Scale programme, where we have been accelerating the use of data to target our consumer communications. This is moving from a nascent capability to a central part of our comms planning.


Education and awareness across the business is becoming increasingly important. We are now at the stage where data and analytics touches almost everyone’s job, and as a result some level of data capability is needed in every part of the company. Team development is also a major focus. It’s important to keep people fresh and focused on new challenges. We are also looking to increase the diversity of our data science teams with an upweighted emphasis on women in data.


Tell us what leadership means to you in the context of your role as a senior data leader.


First, it’s about working with the business to create a roadmap to becoming a data-driven business that delivers value today, whilst putting in place the right future foundations. That requires investment with a lens on multiple horizons.


Second, resource allocation is key. Demand for data and analytics teams will always exceed supply. So being responsive to bottom-up demand within the business whilst setting a top down agenda that fits a long term vision requires constant course correction.


Finally, I think creating a product mindset is fundamental, but this should be balanced with flexibility. The high degree of variety in the markets we service creates a constant tension between standardisation and local data, business needs and operating complexities.

What key skills or attributes do you consider have contributed to your success in this role?

I’ve been lucky in that I’ve had multiple previous business roles that have given me both great depth and breadth of experience in the company that I now lead the data agenda for. This has provided me with a greater understanding than someone from outside PepsiCo in that I can see where the greatest commercial opportunities from data are and anticipate issues in terms of creating products and driven adoption/value.


How did you develop – and continue to develop – these skills or attributes?


I try and stay as connected as possible to the business, normally by visiting our markets and spending time with teams. That’s been more difficult through the pandemic, as visiting markets has been impossible at times.


I’ve always seen myself as someone that drives change in a business by bringing together different inputs and perspectives to create a vision of what could be. I can get a bit restless in day-to-day operating roles and am happiest driving change.


The trade-off in my background is that I don’t have the same technical experience that a data veteran would have. I’ve been able to offset that by upskilling myself and building a team and working with great IT partners that bring complementary strengths.

Is the data tech you have keeping pace with your goals and requirements? Are your providers leading or lagging behind your demands?


It’s largely keeping pace. Whilst being massively customer-centric, PepsiCo is essentially a B2B company which means we don’t “own” the point of transaction with the end consumer of our products. That means that the biggest challenges we face are nearly always linked to being able to source, harmonise and analyse data from disparate sources via a data fabric that can unlock analytics and value. In that context, the tech stack/analytical toolkit is not typically the biggest challenge.

Paul Kelly
has been included in:
  • 100 Brands 2022 (EMEA)