IoD Bucks & MK member Romit Sen, commercial, finance and transformation business partner, British Airways

Read Romit’s successful story and see how the IoD helped him and his business achieve the status as one of the top 100 most influential people in Data!

What has been your path to power?

I joined British Airways in 2014 and it’s been a real pleasure to work right across the airline in a variety of data analytics roles supporting tactical, strategic and transformational initiatives. My background in mathematics, along with an MSc in Operational Research from the University of Southampton, has helped me to develop and stretch the technical aspects of my role. I started my career working in a variety of consultancies and learned to use data and analytics to generate and sell business value to a variety of stakeholders in different industries. I used this opportunity to broaden my business knowledge and understand the value of building great relationships.

I then moved to the tech industry, which opened my eyes to new possibilities of how to use data and provided the opportunity to build a high performing inclusive team. I partnered with several consultancies to help leverage expertise to drive innovation and growth. This brings me on to British Airways, which uses data at the heart of its decision making. Over the past eight years, I have worked at British Airways on some fantastic initiatives and built great relationships across the organisation. In my role, I am helping to shape the data analytics strategy and create a culture that allows the team to thrive. I’m delighted to work alongside such a talented management team who have a laser focus on continuous improvement which has really helped foster a positive environment for our highly skilled teams to grow.

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

British Airways uses internal and external data assets to drive high quality decision making. The pandemic accelerated the urgency, accessibility and the range of use cases with external data. To support the business, our teams developed a Covid-hub, helping the business understand the spread of the virus, new international travel restrictions and changing customer behaviour. All of this information was crucial to the airline’s response to the virus, ensuring everyone was working with accurate, timely data.

As a result of the pandemic, data and analytics are more important than ever and provide exciting opportunities at British Airways to drive new insights and innovation across the business.

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

Absolutely. British Airways understands the value of its data right from the top down, and we are seeing more and more data-led strategic decision making. We understand the needs of the business and use insightful dashboards right across the organisation to explain performance, present forecasts and scenario plan to help drive strategic outcomes. The skills of our teams have never been in so much demand!

The airline is putting data at the heart of all new transformational activity. We are investing in cloud architecture to store and compute data even faster, enabling greater business agility and faster decision making.

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

One of my key focus areas is enabling teams to drive a culture of rapid prototyping and agile development to showcase early value. In one example, within a week my team were presenting an early version of a machine learning model to senior stakeholders and receiving valuable feedback for future iterations. This rapid development has set a good benchmark for others in the team to follow.

Other areas include transitioning from insight-only dashboards to developing connected data visualisations which interlink with tech, enabling faster interventions. It really is an exciting time in the industry due to the speed of change in technology, increased data literacy and the types of business challenges to solve.

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

Within the organisation, data leadership should always be about creating impact. Understanding the business, data architecture, processes and enabling the business to make smarter decisions is at the heart of it all. My team and colleagues know how much I love having conversations about business value, both estimated and actual. It’s where, as a data leader, you can easily demonstrate how much value your team is adding to the business.

In addition, as a data leader its crucial for the team to have an external benchmark. I often have conversations with our partners, suppliers and other data leaders to discuss data and analytics best practices. It’s a great way to continually drive innovation within the team.

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

If I could pick three, they would be relationship building, being value-driven and strong leadership. On an average day, I speak to colleagues across the business, from directors to subject matter experts to graduates. I consider this one of the best aspects of my role as this broad stakeholder base gives me a unique opportunity to continually improve my ability to help drive insight and data across the organisation.

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

From a relationship perspective, it has helped to have worked across several different business areas at British Airways. My focus now is on commercial, finance and transformation which allows me to interact with a wide range of stakeholders.

My leadership style and communication techniques are evolving as I complete my executive MBA at HULT business school, which is enabling me to develop new skills and behaviours. I’m always looking at ways to implement these new skills internally and externally, for example by creating a project impact summary to share with senior leaders, supporting my wife on the growth of her online business or with the IOD to help drive healthy discussions on business strategy and policy.

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

British Airways continues to invest in data as it understands its value. The further adoption of the cloud will give us new ways of storing, sharing and computing data even more efficiently once it’s more fully rolled out. We continue to work with our technology suppliers to ensure we receive high quality data assets and deliver high business impact.

How has being part of the IoD helped you win this award?

The Institute of Directors (IoD) is a fantastic organisation which supports professional leaders with business value creation, good corporate governance and represents the views of IoD members in media and government.

As a member, I have exclusive access to content on industry trends and government policies which combined with data, helps me make smarter decisions as a business leader.  I have also used many of the resources to better shape initiatives within my own organisation and as supporting material for my own personal development during my executive MBA.

On the move, I regularly listen to informative IoD podcasts, which often include interesting guest speakers who debate and share views on a wide range of topics. These discussions help develop my critical thinking and build knowledge on the nuances of each topic which help me better respond to the relevant challenges and opportunities within my organisation.

Being part of an organisation that offers me a place to work away from the office, shares relevant content, a network with other senior leaders and gives me a platform to share my views has helped me become a better business leader and drive more business value for my organisation.

This top 100 is managed by Dataiq who recognises the most influential data and analytics practitioners in the industry. If you would like to connect with Romit or find out more about his achievements, click here

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