Marks and Spencer to train staff in data skills

Toni Sekinah, research analyst and features editor, DataIQ
Marks and Spencer is to train over 1,000 employees in digital skills through a partnership with digital skills training organisation Decoded, with the aim of creating the world’s first data academy in a retail organisation. It also reflects the company's desire to become a digital-first retailer.
 
The M&S Data Academy will take employees from all functions of the business, including store managers, visual merchandisers, as well as those from finance and buying. They are to become skilled data leaders who will lead digital transformation across the business.

"The M&S Data Academy will provide digital literacy and data analytics qualification."

Tablet amd books on a desk in a classroom The fellowship is fully-funded by the Apprenticeship Levy. Steve Rowe, chief executive of M&S, said: “The M&S Data Academy will upskill colleagues and provide them with an in-depth level of digital literacy as well as a data analytics qualification. We need to change their digital behaviours, mindsets and our culture to make the business fit for the digital age and our partnership with Decoded will enable us to do that.”
 
The leadership team will take part in a data leadership programme, allowing them to get to grips with technologies such as machine learning and artificial intelligence. Marks and Spencer employees will also have the opportunity to enrol on the Data Fellowship and take part in an 18-month, in-work data science skills programme. They will learn to use language popular with data professionals such as R and Python as well as machine learning, and will leave with a qualification from the British Computer Society.

"We are excited to be putting data literacy in the hands of thousands of people."

Kathyn Parsons, founder of Decoded, said: “We are excited to be putting data literacy and skills in the hands of thousands of people. This is a pioneering and inspiring commitment to lifelong learning and future-facing skills. Education is the answer to The Fourth Industrial Revolution.” Decoded already works with Harrods, Walmart and IKEA in the retail space.
 
In November 2017, Marks and Spencer set out a five-year transformation plan which could impact data and insights in three ways. A technology transformation programme was announced in January 2018 aimed at delivering annual efficiencies of around £30 million by 2021/2022.
 
In the same month, the marketing team was restructured with the former marketing director of customer and loyalty moving into the position of marketing director for clothing and home. Finally, in February 2018, the business appointed data science company Starcount to help it enhance customer understanding and insight.