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A Comprehensive Guide to Data Transformation with Gareth Powell, Prominent Data & Analytics Leader

Director, Data & Analytics
Director, Data & Analytics
Karl Ramsaran serves as the Director of Data and Analytics, specialising as a mid to senior-level expert in Data and Technology. With a comprehensive international remit, he leads a team dedicated to transforming hiring practices strategically and consultatively. Karl’s expertise focuses on enhancing company growth through specialised recruitment from mid-level roles up to the CEO, with salary ranges between £100,000 to £750,000. Working with a diverse client base, he provides tailored services that ensure the placement of pivotal roles that drive organisational success and innovation.

Digital transformation has brought about a paradigm shift in the business landscape, reshaping traditional operating models globally. In this interview, we delve into the complex realm of data management amidst the ongoing digital revolution, drawing upon the expertise of Gareth Powell, a seasoned professional with an impressive track record of over 21 years in Data & Analytics. 

As a prominent figure acknowledged among “The 100 most influential people shaping the data-driven business narrative in the UK,” Powell provides invaluable insights on kickstarting data transformation endeavours, harnessing the power of AI technologies, and integrating emerging trends to drive organisational success. 

Insights from Gareth Powell

Data transformation initiatives involve converting data from one format or structure into another to make it more accessible, valuable, and useful for analysis. These projects often begin with identifying the organisation’s data needs and goals, assessing the current state of data infrastructure, and determining areas for improvement. Organisations can ensure that their data initiatives drive meaningful outcomes and deliver tangible business value by aligning data transformation efforts with broader business objectives, such as improving decision-making, enhancing customer experiences, or increasing operational efficiency.

We began our discussion by exploring how organisations typically start with data transformation initiatives and how these projects align with broader business objectives:  

We are running at a couple of speeds. Our data strategy is a three-year vision to transform data into a strategic asset. This includes implementing a new structure, building a trusted data platform, enhancing data governance, enabling data fluency through the business and driving value through data products. Alongside this, we have a wider business transformation underpinned by data migration. Building a single, simplified case management system has been a top priority to drive efficiency and simplify our estate. Many firms like ours have accumulated various technology solutions over the years, resulting in a fragmented landscape that hinders efficiency and productivity. Implementing a single case management system with a unified data structure will improve efficiency, enhance productivity, and ultimately deliver better service to our clients.

Gareth Powell, Group Data Officer & Partner at Irwin Mitchel | Experienced leader in Data & Analytics

Machine Learning and AI

With the immense progress in generative AI and machine learning, it is crucial to understand how these advancements are utilised by professionals in pivotal roles. As the Group Data Officer and Partner at Irwin Mitchel, I was keen to understand Gareth’s viewpoint on opportunities in the new tech landscape.

The use of AI in various industries has become increasingly prevalent but is fundamentally nothing new. This trend is driven by the potential for AI to simplify and expedite tasks, leading to increased productivity, particularly with the onset of GenerativeAI. Implementing AI involves several steps and considerations, including having a robust cloud data platform and good data quality. I believe the real value add will be those use cases that harness proprietary data for each organisation. Data collection and quality is still hugely important. We have an Innovation stream as an organisation focussed on harnessing GenAI and are building out a scalable data platform to enable us to capitalise on this further in future

Gareth Powell, Group Data Officer & Partner at Irwin Mitchel | Experienced leader in Data & Analytics

Continuing the conversation, I wanted to understand how Gareth assessed and implemented emerging technologies in data. I suspected this was crucial to staying ahead in today’s fast-paced digital world and remaining competitive in an ever-evolving technological landscape.

We are starting to leverage PowerApps now as a business. In the context of anti-money laundering, it is necessary to have a thorough and efficient process in place for evaluating clients and matters. At Irwin Mitchell, we have developed a solution that replaces the need for Excel spreadsheets and streamlines the entire policy evaluation process. This ensures we can effectively address potential risks and maintain compliance with anti-money laundering regulations. By implementing this solution, we can provide our internal clients with a data-driven solution that mitigates risks, is resilient, reliable and drives efficiency.

Gareth Powell, Group Data Officer & Partner at Irwin Mitchel | Experienced leader in Data & Analytics

Our conversation shifted towards talent and skills, and Gareth shared his insights on the future of talent supply. Data engineering is a field that is constantly evolving, and the demand for skilled data engineers continues to soar, creating a situation where the pool of available talent is comparably small. As technology advances and data becomes increasingly integral to business operations, the need for talented data engineers will only grow. Investing in upskilling and training programs will be crucial in bridging this talent gap and ensuring organisations thrive in a data-driven era.

NB: If you are a data engineer or looking to recruit data engineers, please connect with me.

Data engineering is one of the most in-demand disciplines within Data. It is often the unsung hero, quietly working behind the scenes to ensure data is managed, processed, and served effectively. From building robust data pipelines to designing scalable architectures, data engineers play a crucial role in enabling organisations to make informed decisions based on reliable data. With the exponential data growth in today’s digital age, the need for skilled data engineers has never been greater. They are the backbone of any data-driven organisation, laying the foundation for successful analytics and insight. 

Gareth Powell, Group Data Officer & Partner at Irwin Mitchel | Experienced leader in Data & Analytics

I greatly enjoyed speaking to Gareth, but sadly, we had run out of time. One last question I wanted to ask him was what advice he would give his young self when initially embarking on his data engineering career.

I have seen some brilliant data science solutions developed in my time, but without a well-thought-out implementation plan, these can result in project failure. Data science projects must consider the end-to-end solution rather than solely focusing on creating a perfect model. Business buy-in and implementation should be given equal importance to ensure success.

Gareth Powell, Group Data Officer & Partner at Irwin Mitchel | Experienced leader in Data & Analytics

As organisations navigate the complexities of data management and embark on transformation journeys, Gareth’s advice emphasises the need for a strategic approach, robust infrastructure, and talent development. 

The role of data engineers in shaping the future of businesses is pivotal, and my team and I are here to support you with your critical data talent needs. 

We would love to hear from you if you are a CDO looking to drive a successful data transformation or an organisation seeking the right talent to help you on your data journey.

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