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James Morgan, senior director, data management and information strategy, Asda

James Morgan, senior director, data management and information strategy, Asda

How is your organisation using data and analytics to support the corporate vision and purpose?

 

Data and analytics is becoming more and more important within Asda, we have a huge focus and are making significant investments in this space. It is part of the way we work on a day to day basis. Data underpins our values, strategic initiatives and is vital to achieving our corporate vision and goals.

 

We are actively growing our data teams within Asda and recruited many new colleagues to the organisation during 2020, including to our graduate programme. This will continue in the coming year as our information strategy rolls out, supporting and driving our overall company strategy.

 

2020 was a year like no other - how did it impact on your planned activities and what unplanned ones did you have to introduce?

 

It was indeed an interesting year from both a personal and company perspective. I joined Asda at the end of June, in the midst of the first lockdown, and only met my new boss, colleagues and team face-to-face several weeks into my new role. Thankfully, it is such an amazingly welcoming and supportive organisation, so the whole experience was much better than I could have imagined given the circumstances.

 

From an organisation perspective, there has been so much that so many colleagues have done to keep our customers and colleagues safe while managing to increase support for vulnerable customers and local communities, maintain supply chains, sustain product availability both in store and online and increasing our delivery and click and collect services by huge orders or magnitude.

 

Data and analytics have been key to a number of these activities and the decision making that lay behind them.

 

The way everyone has reacted has been absolutely superb, with a number of colleagues in the organisation being recognised in the New Year’s Honours list for their superb actions. It has been a huge team effort and one that everyone in the organisation can be immensely proud of.

 

Looking forward to 2021, what are your expectations for data and analytics within your organisation?

 

Data and analytics is only going to become more and more important to Asda during 2021 and embedded into everything we do. As we write a new chapter in the company history, we will be building out our data and analytics capabilities to the next level.

 

There will be further growth of the data and analytics teams and an increased expectation from the business that the right information will be available to make better decisions and build even better relationships with our customers. All of our strategic programmes for 2021 will be underpinned and driven by great data and analytics.

 

Is data for good part of your personal or business agenda for 2021? If so, what form will it take?

 

Yes, it’s definitely an important focus from both a personal and business agenda. It will take a variety of forms, from supporting vulnerable customers during the challenges of Covid, mentoring individuals to help develop their careers in data, supporting DMA Customer Data Council initiatives such as the Creative Data Academy, working with the West Yorkshire Local Digital Skills Partnership to increase digital literacy in the region and increasing diversity through the superb work of Women in Data. Data for good has always been part of my personal agenda and it’s great to work for an organisation with aligned values.

 

What has been your path to power?

 

I had an early and brilliant induction to leadership as an officer in the RAF, which was a superb starter for ten. However, my career in data began as an analyst, learning the basics of how to manage, query and interrogate data while being business, customer and outcomes focused. I then started to lead analytics, BI, insights, CRM and reporting teams for the likes of Sky TV, Hutchison 3G in Australia and during my initial years O2 Telefónica.

 

Part way through my time at O2, I shifted focus to getting companies’ data foundations in order, setting and implementing information strategies and began leading end to end data transformations. I was lucky enough to lead data and transformation teams and define data ecosystems at the likes of British Gas and Sainsbury’s before setting out on my own consulting. I’m now really excited to be leading the data agenda at Asda, setting and implementing the information strategy, including a new data ecosystem.

 

I have also had the privilege of being involved with and holding a number of positions in great industry bodies over the years, such as the IDM Data Council, DMA Customer Data Council and Women in Data.

 

What is the proudest achievement of your career to date?

 

I have been extremely lucky to have had a number of proud achievements over the years. It’s difficult to pull one out above the rest. Mentoring is something that I have always found to be rewarding and I suppose the proud moment is when someone asks you to mentor them and then says thank you when they go on to achieve their goals.

 

Tell us about a career goal or a purpose for your organisation that you are pursuing?

 

Developing and enhancing the data culture within Asda will be a focus in 2021. We have begun and will continue to bring together like-minded individuals from across the organisation to talk about how we can use data and analytics to better deliver business outcomes. Part of this process is setting up a number of communities of practice within Asda, where colleagues can focus on specific subject areas, develop best practice, showcase great work, bring the outside in, learn and build strong relationships. We created a strong data science community last year; more will follow in 2021.

 

How closely aligned to the business are data and analytics both within your own organisation and at an industry level? What helps to bring the two closer together?

 

Data and analytics are becoming more and more aligned to the Asda business every day. It has a seat around the table in key programme and decision forums that perhaps hadn’t been there before. Safety for customers and colleagues was always the number one priority but that has gone to another level this year, with data playing an important role.

 

There is also a realisation that data can be and is a differentiator in both the supermarket and wider retail space where margins are very tight. Recognising, engaging and creating a relevant value exchange with your customers is becoming increasingly vital as is ensuring that operations are as efficient and cost effective as possible.

 

Across retail, the digital and data agenda has had to massively accelerate due to the pandemic. The need for online, home delivery and click and collect services has exploded. Those without a digital footprint either developed one at lightning speed or sadly failed and those with existing services have had to expand them to unprecedented levels. Many years of digitisation have been crammed into a few weeks and although we will hopefully get back to more normality this year, those trends won’t reverse.

 

What is your view on how to develop a data culture in an organisation, building out data literacy and creating a data-first mindset?

 

Developing a data culture is all about communication, engagement and relevance. It is vital to understand the priorities and outcomes the business is aiming to achieve, the role each of your colleagues plays in achieving those and the overall values of the organisation. It is also important to get a feeling for how data is viewed in the company today and its perceived value.

 

With this knowledge you can start to develop the story about “why you should embrace a data culture”, the purpose and value of it and then tell the story in business terms that relate to colleagues’ actual roles.

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