From One Chief Data Officer to Another - a candid talk with Ericsson's Ulrika Jägare and Vanessa Eriksson from PwC

Ulrika Jägare, Ericsson

Data pundits have proclaimed a massive increase in the number of Chief Data Officers by 2020.  While that trend seems to have caught on in the Americas and intensified within the financial services area in some countries, we’re not really feeling that pulse here in the Nordics.  In her new role as PwC's Chief Data Officer Advisor and with a background as first generation Chief Data Officer at Telia Company, Vanessa Eriksson decided to investigate.

With Sweden ranking #1 in the European Innovation Scoreboard 2017*, surely we’ve got data professionals in high places that take the lead in driving data agendas within organizations? So what are they called and where are they located? And why aren’t they visible on C-level?

In order to find out, Vanessa Eriksson reached out to Ulrika Jägare, Director Analytics & Machine Learning for a candid talk between two CDO's.

Vanessa: Tell us about yourself!

Ulrika: I've been at Ericsson for the past 17 years, mostly spent my time within R&D & Product Management.  Today, I am a Director, Analytics & Machine Intelligence and what it actually means in reality is that I set the strategic direction for Ericsson in this space internally, externally, commercially, infrastructure wise, data wise – all of it! And it’s been accelerating. I am also responsible for the realization plan and the programs we are running to make it happen.

V: When did your journey begin?

U: The last 10 years I would say, I have really focused on Data and Analytics, striving for Ericsson to become a data driven company and that has been a long and challenging journey, where we’ve gone up and down and up and down…, but now the last 2 years have been just up-up and up. Right now it’s the hottest topic and everyone is calling me around the clock. So it’s absolutely happening at Ericsson. And I feel like “yes, finally!”.

V: “Sweet Success” or rather, hard work pays off. To what do you attribute your success to? 

U: As all large and complex companies, change takes time. It is all about truly understanding the problems and opportunities, and working with all the skilled people in the organization to come up with the best solutions. And then putting the pieces together in a strategy which people believe in.

However, a big factor for why this is taking off now is a combination of market demands on Data and AI driven Telecom Networks with the fact that our new CEO, Börje Ekholm is much more involved in the operational work.  He wants to see how we’re going to make this work, and wants to stay informed.

V: As Chief Data Officer at Telia Company - Eurasia, I reported to the CEO Erik Hallberg.  Looking back, I believe that automatically gave me the mandate I needed to drive a data agenda. Describe to us, your reporting structure, Ulrika.

U: I currently report to the Head of Technology Strategy & Execution and in turn she reports to the CTO. However, I work directly with the CTO on a daily basis and we take decisions together. Going forward Ericsson will be addressing the more hierarchical structures in the company, creating a more supportive environment for a more data driven business.

V: How do you suggest the new reporting structure look like?

U: The Head of Technology Strategy & Execution and I are great colleagues but we accept that operatively my role needs to work directly with the CTO.  The common Data infrastructure is a clear case on how we need to work going forward, where the CIO and CTO and I meet on a regular basis, I set direction and plan way forward.

V: What would you describe as your biggest challenge?

U: It’s not an easy task trying to get everyone to align and adapt to change. work with you There is always some internal resistance that needs overcoming. Especially when working on the strategy, I have worked closely with the experts in the research team, which is then anchored with all the business areas, the marketing areas and have all of them agreeing with me that this is the direction we are going in and this is what we should do. And it is a big company, therefore perseverance is a valuable characteristic to possess and one of Ericsson core values!

V: As first generation Chief Data Officer at Telia Company, I had the challenge of explaining my role and how it aligned with the other functions like the Chief Technical Officers, Chief Privacy Officers, Chief Financial Officers, Heads of Security, and Analytical Directors etc. Today, while there is no clear job description for the role of the Chief Data Officer, there is a lot of material to be found as guiding principles.

V: As Director, Analytics & Machine Intelligence, would an appointment to Chief Data Officer at Ericsson add value to your work?

U: Yes! But it’s not that easy.  People from different parts of the organization have a lot of expectations on me to run things end-to-end, not just from a strategic view but operational as well.   For me to be able to keep it all together and deliver, I have explained that in the absence of such a role andan organization, I cannot do that.

V: What would you describe as the top 5 skills needed for a Chief Data Officer?

  • Listen! - Take time to understand what the overall business objective is, and what is stopping us from getting there (data wise)
  • Think Data first – be able to view your business from another perspective
  • Perseverance – changing a large company takes time and effort!
  • Positivity – ability to see the opportunities not just the dead ends
  • Evangelizing and secure everyone is on board

U: Lastly, if you were appointed Chief Data Officer tomorrow, what would you do?

  1. Set up a company common and capable Chief Data Officer organization to deliver on the agreed strategy
  2. Have every product owner to evaluate what data is available today and what should be available tomorrow to fully support a data driven business approach
  3. Secure line management alignment on a sufficient data science strategy, i.e. competences and capabilities throughout the company
  4. Open that bottle of champagne and celebrate with the team!

V: Its been wonderful talking to you Ulrika!  We share your excitement and wish you all success in your journey ahead. 


*Sweden ranks #1 on the European Innovation Scoreboard 2017




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Alexander Fritsch

Alexander Fritsch

Digital Strategy, Data & Analytics, PwC Sverige

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