“It is a unique job title, but it won’t be in the next five years.” From probably the only person currently in the role of director, global data strategy and culture at a global organisation, that is a valuable perspective and prediction. Deni Boncheva is a pioneer fostering data literacy at PepsiCo, which is bringing the issue of data culture into focus as part of the company’s continued digital transformation.
As she explains, “it is about a new way of thinking and enabling data and analytics practitioners in the company, as well as managing the dynamics. You can employ data scientists, data engineers, data analysts and build a lot of models, but unless the company’s culture is then able to take on their outputs, it is a challenge to translate that investment and resource into impacts.”
PepsiCo estimates that its products are enjoyed over one billion times every day, giving the company net revenues in 2020 of more than $70 billion. Its vision is to be the global leader in convenient foods and beverages by winning with purpose, while also bringing digitalisation and sustainability into its business strategy and brands.
Data culture has a central role to play in the organisation’s digitalisation strategy. “PepsiCo has a long-standing history of using data and analytics to build and organise business-ready data that allows leaders to solve their problems with the highest degree of confidence,” says Boncheva. “As our data capabilities evolved, we developed a centralised way of working to allow for better collaboration across functions.”
By formalising these methods and setting common standards and expected levels of data literacy across business units, the ambition is to ensure that new data-driven processes and cutting-edge technologies such as AI and machine learning are deployed effectively. Data skills levels are being built into the recruitment processes, while learning journeys are also being defined for incumbent colleagues who want to become more data literate based on the level of data use their role involves.
“We are building a data community,” says Boncheva. “As a company with a digital-first mindset we’ve always cultivated a data savvy culture, so we are not starting from zero, but rather bringing our company-wide data-informed community to the next level.”
Boncheva herself comes from a data technology background in media and entertainment and has seen for herself the importance of an enterprise-wide culture that ensures the hard work done on the ground delivers as expected. “For that to happen, it needs to be natural and organic, encouraging everyone to feel inspired to contribute to our data community,” she remarks.
To maintain and develop her own skillset, Boncheva is currently studying strategy and innovation at Oxford University, which she describes as “eye opening”. It has also helped her to realise how much PepsiCo is ahead of the curve on data culture: “Most large organisations have not woken up to it yet, but I think many corporations will continue to value data and create roles charged with stewarding a data culture.”
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