Replacing its top marketer with a chief data officer may not be easyJet's smartest move

Is easyJet wise to replace its marketing boss with a data chief?

Easyjet is the latest brand to show that they aren’t willing to be left behind in the data department, and that they too are digitally minded, by eliminating one of its top marketing positions in favour of a chief data officer.

Easyjet’s chief executive, Johan Lundgen, has said that the chief data officer “will report directly to myself and will further build on work we have already done with data science to exploit the opportunity of the billions of data points [we have] within the organisation.”

Easyjet here have effectively signalled to the rest of the industry that it has its act together on the data front and wants to focus further how to exploit it – but in reality, this may not be the best move for the brand long term.

Isolating data in an organisation and placing it in the hands of an individual could mean the rest of the business to breathe easily, washing their hands of responsibility and no longer factoring data into their own strategy.

But this is misguided. Data is now the connection between every aspect of what an organisation is trying to achieve, whether with the customer, channels, culture or technology and should be embedded into every single role at an organisation. Everything needs to be underpinned by the same focus and strategy, so that they can target effectively and consistently.

Best practice data strategy involves understanding your customers propensity towards your brand and their habits when interacting with it and using this to market and sell to them, meeting their needs.

It will come as no surprise that Amazon is currently best-in-class at this. Data underpins its entire organisation and they have in-house data scientists who are utilising the incredible amounts of information to which they have access to alter their algorithms daily. Amazon works to build an incredibly rich picture of its customers, in order to target them with relevant products more effectively.

So, it’s all very well Lundgen emphasising the “billions of data points” easyJet has access to, but these will go to waste if the organisation doesn’t agree what digital means to the organisation as a whole.

Digital strategy is a team sport and can’t be focused in a single position - it must be universal across all functions and all levels of the organisation. The CEO in particular needs to be a true digital leader and approach digital as integrated at every level and not in silo. In fact, the entire C-suite should be digitally competent.

Hiring a chief data officer is a quick way to raise your digital profile in the short term, whilst – at worst - letting your management team off the hook long term. So rather than leaving it to the expert, encourage your entire organisation to become an expert – starting right at the top.

Bill James us chairman of Transform, an agency part of the Engine network.

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