A day in the shoes of…Will Deschene, Senior Digital Analyst at EDF

Our first launch into a ‘day in the shoes’ series is spent with Will Deschene, Senior Digital Analyst at EDF. In this interview, he tells us about managing stakeholders and a team, brands that have inspired him lately, and shares some valuable advice for new analysts.

Aimée: Please describe your job: what do you do?

Will: The majority of my work is stakeholder management, less of the ‘doing’ in the analytics world, as I now have two analysts in the team. It’s more about stakeholder engagement and prioritisation. My core focus is on trying to find innovative ways to join the data, which is a big challenge for us.

Aimée: Whereabouts do you sit within the organisation? Who do you report to?

Will: I report into the Data Manager within Digital Operations which is part of the Customer Unit at EDF.

Aimée: What kind of skills do you need to be effective in your role?

Will: I still do a lot of the data side of things, especially the implementation of Google Analytics, and I’m still heavily involved with scoping things out with the data layer and fielding new requests.

For any analyst communication is really important—especially when juggling so many priorities and different stakeholders from around the business. Attention to detail is also key and having a passion for data in general.

As people become more data literate and companies become more digitally mature, stakeholder management is so important as you need to be able to understand the type of requests and conflicting priorities that such a large organisation generates.

Aimée: Tell us about a typical working day…

Will: We work 8-4—we like to get here before others so people can start the day with reports on their desks, especially on Monday mornings.

It’s less about a typical day and more about a typical working week, as we work to set priorities within our backlog from JIRA; it’s about planning capacity around those tasks.

I have quite a lot of meetings: 50% of my time is actually talking to people about doing work rather than doing it! Now that I have a team I can spread the work out a bit more, but I still need to be cut-throat about meeting attendance for those that are relevant.

Aimée: What do you love about your job? What sucks?

Will: I like the scale, there’s always so much to do and so much to be involved in—you can define your own scope. Obviously all teams have their core responsibilities; however, because data is so intrinsic there’s a lot of opportunity for us to have a seat at the table when it comes to talking about data. 

The flip side is that because there are so many processes and systems, making the leap from where we are to where we want to get to is incredibly difficult, as you’re dealing with so many different legacy systems particularly as EDF used to be several different companies consolidated into one. This brings with it lots of potential blockers from different ways of working, as much as this is a challenge it’s what makes my role interesting—it’s a love/hate kind of thing!

Aimée: What kind of goals do you have? What are the most useful metrics and KPIs for measuring success?

Will: We would like to move towards being more of an insight providing function rather than just connecting data. The wider goal is to bring a ‘360 view’ of the customer: every touchpoint and system in to one view on a regular basis that can be analysed and accessible to the rest of the business. Once different parts can be joined we should be owning the dissemination of that insight out to the rest of the business, so a KPI might be to define how much and how actionable the insight provided is. So for example if there was a particular interest in the app ratings or a piece of technology developed in our apps, we should be looking at showing how effective that was, what commercial value it had and how it made for a better customer experience. ‘Customer-first’ initiatives are a huge focus for us at EDF. Our function wears double hats in a sense, both working to support and service internal customers, stakeholders, whilst keeping in mind the customer centricity of our external consumers.

Aimée: What’s the hardest part of your job?

Will: There is so much going on at one point and we’re involved across so many workstreams at EDF, everyone seems to want outputs from Google Analytics so the breadth can be quite mentally draining. Having to constantly rotate between those different viewpoints and priorities and manage their different levels of understanding. One of the biggest challenges for me is the varying levels of technical understanding around data and having to gauge someone’s level of understanding almost instantly—whether they know the difference between a pageview and unique pageview vs a user, for example.

Aimée: Do you ever get any resistance from analysis you present?

Will: One of the things we’re keen to change here in terms of digital analytics culture, is that ‘self-serve’ mentality. The resistance is moving from requesting reports and expecting a number to shifting an entire organisation over to self-serve and this idea of ‘data democracy’ where people have the information at their fingertips. This is definitely one of the exciting parts, trying to pin down the levels of granularity you go to in a Tableau report that you make widely accessible without confusing the audience, so judging that balance of what the report is and who it’s for: it’s brilliant when you get it right. We’re progressing at quite a good pace now, next year we will be looking to take it even further—using dashboards to feed people’s intrigue, developing a base of power users to gain critical mass and growing insight.

Aimée: How did you end up at EDF, and where might you go from here?

Will: This is quite an interesting one (!) It’s been a bit of a journey: I was a musician travelling all over the world playing music until 28. After that, I moved into the charity sector in London for a couple of years, where I started learning the systems behind the organisation where I was working. Then I moved to Brighton and worked in an accounting firm (which wasn’t for me), and worked as an analyst in a higher education for int’l students before finally moving here two and half years ago. It’s been great to be a part of EDF and build out a vision for analytics.

Aimée: Which brands/campaigns have impressed you lately?

Will: I’ve really enjoyed the shift in retail, the combination of apps and the in store experience is so clever. I use H&M; the way they gamify voucher redemptions through the app and collect a wealth of data in the process is just awesome.

Aimée: Which data-driven companies do you admire?

Will: Again, I wish I knew more, this is an area for my own personal development that I’m keen to spend more time on next year. Allocating more time towards educating myself on what’s happening in the marketplace and getting my head around the way other companies are doing things. We try to collaborate with other organisations outside of the energy sector to expand our learning. We’re actually going to the Big Data Event next week.

Aimée: What do you think separates a good implementation from a bad one?

Will: One that has the end user in mind—ours wasn’t as focused on that as it could’ve been. It was built too much for an analyst and not for non-data-literate end users. 

Aimée: What advice would you give an analyst starting out in 2019?

Will: To make sure you enjoy what you’re doing! The beginning of any career is going to define what you do for the next 30years, so make sure you enjoy it. As a manager I’d like to think I treat my direct reports with respect and I give them the space and freedom to explore their roles and flourish doing something they enjoy.

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