Data function takes flight at O2

Telefónica O2 UK has data at its heart, as last year’s haul of Data Strategy Awards demonstrated. Now James Morgan is chair of this year’s judging, he explains the business-critical work he does for the company

James Morgan: Convincing the board of the need for investment is a key challenge
James Morgan: Convincing the board of the need for investment is a key challenge

It is easy to imagine that new economy businesses do not suffer from the same data management issues as their longerestablished peers. No legacy systems, fewer data migrations, less of an issue with data protection and permissions. Yet the rate of growth these companies have enjoyed means they are just as likely to have complex
information architectures as anybody else.

Telefónica O2 UK is a prime example. Only formed in 2001 by the demerger of of the mobile business BT Wireless from BT, it has grown to 20.7 million customers. As a result of launches, acquisitions and joint ventures it has a number of disparate databases in operation.

Getting the right information in place and ensuring it is delivered to business users is the responsibility of James Morgan, head of data and programme management. His team is responsible for business ownership, management and development of the marketing data warehouses and project management for CRM.

“Source system data quality is always a major concern, as is the integration and migration of legacy systems and their inherent problems,” says Morgan. Given the pace of change in the mobile market and the pressure of economic conditions, it is more than generous that Morgan was able to agree to be chair of this year’s Data Strategy Awards.

As he notes, “dealing with budgetary concerns and financial challenges do take up an inordinate amount of time and effort, but this is not surprising given the current financial climate. The biggest challenge is demonstrating true value to the business in investing in this area.”

Working in highly-competitive environments is not new to Morgan, however. He previously worked at BSkyB (including as a colleage of Simon Kaffel) before moving to Australia, where he worked for Hutchison Telecom. It was in a rapid growth phase where business goals were often running ahead of operational resource.

So how does he cope? “My first real career was as an RAF officer,” he notes. Compared to the pace and genuine risks inherent in the military, business life must seem comparatively easy. Morgan certainly brings a sense of calm and control into the room with him, as this year’s judges will have noticed.

These skills will no doubt have been of great value when moving to O2 in late 2005. “I had to return from working in Australia due to a family member being diagnosed with a serious illness and got in touch with a number of ex-colleagues prior to my departure, including a couple who I’d worked with at BSkyB. They were at O2 and identified an opportunity that was ideal for me. I started the interview process while in Australia and was in the new role within a couple of weeks of landing,” he recalls.

Answering to the head of CRM, his current role is very business-focused. “We mainly support marketing, but we are in the process of transitioning into an enterprise-wide business intelligence role,” says Morgan. Day-to-day tasks involve ensuring the “business as usual” availability of systems and data to support CRM, such as campaign management, real-time marketing, reporting, analysis and modelling.

The “Nucleus” programme which incorporates building the enterprise-wide data warehouse, a new Business Intelligence Competency Centre, as well as information governance and data quality management structures has become the most demanding part of the job ,. This involves working with both the in-house team and external service integrators. Morgan says: “The diverse mix of business and technical competencies are vital to making business intelligence really work.”

Telefonica O2 UK is a marketing-led company which relies on insight from data and research to keep the customer at its heart. Nucleus is a priority programme for the company and has four board directors on its steering group. In return, Morgan’s team is aligned to profit and loss targets, including churn, ARPU, and net subscriber growth.

A key KPI for Nucleus is on cost-savings through consolidation of systems and external providers, as well as performance improvements from those targets. Given O2’s solid results, including its huge success with the iPhone, it seems Morgan has given the data function its wings.

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