How is your organisation using data and analytics to support the corporate vision and purpose?
Our VeryGroup.com purpose is to “Make good things easily accessible to more people”. We do this by delivering leading brands and products to our customers; providing flexible payment plans and financial services; and enabling high levels of personalisation and ease of use.
Our data (“DNA”) mission underpinning this allows us to “delight customers and empower colleagues with trusted data products and services”.
This translates to “data, insight, action and trust”, which, in turn, means we collect the right customer data and make it accessible; deliver self-service actionable insights; power every customer touchpoints to make it a more personalised experience; and keep our customers’ data safe.
2020 was a year like no other - how did it impact on your planned activities and what unplanned ones did you have to introduce?
With regards to our planned activities, it was necessary to freeze recruitment and dial down our contract and flex partners early in 2020, due to the uncertainty ahead. Many projects were put on hold and reprioritisation was inevitable.
With regards to unplanned work, as one of the largest retailers in the UK, we have had to adapt to changing customer behaviour and trends. Due to Covid-19, online shopping has drastically increased, resulting in the need to scale our data and analytics infrastructure accordingly. The customer mix and product mix changed significantly, so it was necessary to adjust our forecasting for category stock. One example was the reduction in fashion as fewer people were going out and a corresponding increase in home and electrical offering.
Looking forward to 2021, what are your expectations for data and analytics within your organisation?
As online retail faces unprecedented growth and Very continues to attract new customer segments, the demand on our DNA function is escalating. We are creating a centre of excellence for data platforms, data intelligence and customer forensics. We will use this to mine for growth in our new customer base and look to sharpen our customer classifications, segmentation and predictive value models.
Is data for good part of your personal or business agenda for 2021? If so, what form will it take?
Very partners with the Coram Beanstalk charity. Its mission is to recruit, train and support volunteers to provide vital reading provisions to thousands of children across the UK. In 2020, Very sponsored bringing back Woolworths Pic’n’Mix with all profits from the sale of these items being donated to support Coram Beanstalk. This was a data-driven decision and one I am personally passionate about. Data insights highlighted that nearly 40% of the 1,000 people surveyed admitted to enjoying sweets at least once a week, with 28% confessing to having sweets every day, so we certainly knew there was a market. In 2021, we will continue to use data insights to support Coram Beanstalk.
What has been your path to power?
My career began with a BsC in Applied Statistics and Computing in my hometown of Liverpool. From that point, I was motivated by the application of data and technology to drive commercial value and customer experiences. As general manager of data at Moneysupermarket.com, I helped the nation save millions on their household bills and it was then that I formulated my “data, insight, action” strategy.
I progressed to take the overseas position of CDO for Betsson.com - one of the largest online gambling companies on the Nasdaq – and while there I was able to develop my interest in digital and customer experience while continuing with a data focus. Additionally, I developed my understanding of the complex trading dynamics and multi-country currency and language complexities of a multinational.
Returning to the UK as CDO for Wejo.com, I immersed myself into cloud/SaS environments and IoT at scale, turning 0.5 trillion messages directly from connected cars into data and analytical products that save lives as well as reducing congestion and emissions.
Finally, as CDO at Very.co.uk I am able to “rewrite retail” with a mission to provide the most personalised digital financial and retail experience in the UK. Focusing on the DNA strategy and vision we will implement and embed “data, insight action” to create value, drive collaboration and engage our internal and external customers.
What is the proudest achievement of your career to date?
My proudest achievement must be the transformation of Wejo.com during my four years there. We successfully transformed the company from a single centre 40 full-time equivalent technology start-up, to a global four site 200 FTE data and analytics scale-up.
I devised and implemented a three-year transformation programme, creating a new target operating model for the company to support the global digital, data and analytics strategy. This resulted in a globally recognised data and analytics capability, delivering against all annual targets.
As a result, we were voted in the top three global digital/data distributers at AWS 2020 and received a Talend data innovation award.
Tell us about a career goal or a purpose for your organisation that you are pursuing?
My career goal is to develop and embed a data strategy to execution approach and blueprint that will help the organisations I work with derive significant value from data and analytics.
This strategy is my “DNA” strategy. I believe the four pillars to a great data strategy are data, insight and action, underpinned by trust. My view is that value is created by improving the capability of each pillar with a focus on action. I maintain that: Value = (D+N+A+T)*(A).
Over the past ten years, I have enhanced and validated this strategy in multiple organisations and through a continuous improvement process I will continue to do so to maximise our data value.
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 is fundamental at Very. Our mission has been built with full alignment to Very’s “objectives, goal, strategies and measures”, ensuring everything we do in our data function is strategically aligned within the wider organisation. The recruitment of my role as CDO this year is a recognition of the importance placed on the growing focus and alignment of data within Very.
From an industry perspective, I believe in building strong partnerships and being part of great networks. At Very, that is with networks such as DataIQ, Women In Data and also with the local University of Liverpool. We have great technology partnerships such as AWS, SAS, Celebrus, Microsoft and Teradata.
We focus on ensuring alignment through a strategy of shared goals/aligned objectives, internal and external communications (including monthly and quarterly showcases) plus lots of agile proof of concepts and technology spikes.
What is your view on how to develop a data culture in an organisation, building out data literacy and creating a data-first mindset?
A data culture starts at the top of an organisation and at Very we lead by example. We are democratising data at all levels and empowering everyone to access information through self-serve data catalogues, BI and insights. We encourage data discovery by investing in new products and services to allow our business verticals to leverage new tools developed by our centre of excellence hubs.
We are supporting and driving collaborative data and analytics by implementing cross functional shared data labs that encourage hypothesis testing, investigation, research and data literate SMEs to partner with and train their colleagues.
Last, but certainly not least, we are branding the change; #VeryDNA is now being used on internal and external comms equally.