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Sainsbury's Chief Data Officer Andrew Day reveals how company is embracing data 'from farm to fork'

Thomas Macaulay | June 6, 2017
The former News UK Chief Data Officer told CIO UK about his start at the company and plans for the future.

He made it to this meeting, where Coupe assured him that the operations at Sainsbury's were extremely straightforward.

"We're a really simple business," he said. "We buy stuff, we take that stuff and put it in supermarkets, and hopefully we sell it."

Day soon learned that the business was more complicated than Coupe suggested. That meant that everywhere there were opportunities for data analytics, from production to managing customers through the digital journey, or 'from farm to fork', as he calls it. And in a business of that size, just a small change could make a huge difference.

After his many meetings with Sainsbury's staff, he turned his thoughts into a plan. His objectives were to make the use of data faster, better and cleaner, to create a centre of excellence delivering measured value, and an enterprise community to support it.

His plans were ambitious, but Day recognised the dangers of sacrificing continuity at such a large business.

"You need to be really sure before you stop stuff," he says. "It's alright to start stuff, but stopping stuff early is probably going to be a disaster."

He recommends other new CDOs act quickly once they're sure what needs to be addressed. In his case it began with two initial priorities: deliver a successful data platform programme and hire an information lead to address the company's one major skills gap.

Despite CEO Coupe's mischievously over-simplified impression of the company, the Chief Executive's support and his belief in the benefits of data was vital to support Day's work

"The number one relationship you need is the most senior sponsorship, so if your chief executive is a fan of creating a data-led business, then that's half the battle," he says. "It's amazing how people fall into place if the chief exec says something's important."

The executive support quickly trickled down the organisation to develop engagement throughout the company.

After 130 days Sainsbury's had a new operating model for data. They had created a data analytics centre of excellence, and a data lab function with the mandate to "innovate at the edge".

They had identified potentially game-changing "moonshots" and priority projects. A headline stakeholder map had been built, and a structure around key programmes of work, particularly the data lake programme. Data started to become part of the Sainsbury's fabric, sharing learning across all aspects of the organisation.

Day has plenty more plans to work on as the role of data grows at Sainsbury's and all types of other businesses around the world.

"If you believe the hype then data and analytics will replace everybody's job at its fundamental level," he says. "Except for yours of course."

Source: CIO UK 

 

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