The Back Room

Data Strategy talks to data practitioners who toil un-noticed behind the scenes

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Nic Sheen
Chief technology officer
Communisis

What does your job involve? Is there a lot of pressure?
I am responsible for our technical strategy, which means ensuring we are developing solutions our customers want to buy, from MRM through to document composition and data. My team also implements customer solutions, so there is that inevitable balance of product development and project delivery. My day job is split pretty evenly between thinking about the future, how we can better integrate different parts of the customer communication lifecycle, overseeing project delivery and visiting customers. The pressure varies. Inevitably when something goes wrong, a few things go wrong at the same time!

Are you part of a team or do you work alone?
I have a great team of developers and analysts working for me. One of the things we have done in the last year is use more offshore resource, which enables my UK team to focus on product strategy and customers while the offshore resource carries out product development. I work closely with our sales and key account teams to understand their customers’ needs, which I believe is an essential part of any senior technical role.

In what ways does your work see the light of day? How is it used by your company?
One system we built and managed was for a high street bank and we had to ensure the correct processes were followed when it was reprinted. The solution involved a lot of business process re-engineering and integration. Similarly, whenever I get direct mail, or a statement through the door that has been produced by Communisis, I think about all the people and systems that have gone into its creation: data segmentation, data processing, document composition, digital asset management, output management and so on. I try and tell my family how great it is but, strangely, they are not usually interested.

What is the best thing about your job?
Variety. On a daily basis I can be speaking to the leadership team about strategy, working through technical issues with the development team or working with customers to improve their marketing processes and systems. Creating useful, usable technology that delivers real benefit is what drives me.

What are your ambitions?
I love what I do – “making technology work”, if you will – and I want to continue to develop my career along these lines. I want to finally get my homemade Linux box and my TV working together so I can have all the features of Sky+… but with no cost! In the long term, I’d like to return
to University and continue the research in Physics I left off in my Twenties.

You have a life – what do you get up to in it?
I have one son and we are trying to learn golf together, although not very successfully. Besides that I am a keen musician and play football twice a week. ,Science is probably still my main interest and I like to keep up to date with what’s going on, so outside of Communisis I also work as a consultant.

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