Sainsbury's Chief Data Officer Andrew Day only started working at the supermarket giant in October 2016 but has already begun to transform the organisation through data.
"If you think about our business from farm to fork, there are applications everywhere," Day told CIO UK at the DataIQ Summit, months after claiming the top spot on the organisation's list of data leaders.
"When I joined the business the most obvious things were around customers, customer-based analytics and CRM sort of stuff. But actually, the bigger opportunity is in product-based analytics and the fusing together of data from the product world and the customer world to create something that is greater than the sum of the parts.
"It's the unintended or the unseen applications which I think are going to be those that deliver the most value to us."
Day is the first CDO in the company's 146-year history. His appointment reflects a growing recognition of the power of the ever-growing volumes of data in the enterprise and the need for a strategy to harness it.
Data analytic skills were the most in-demand skill for the third year in a row in the 2017 Harvey Nash CIO Survey, and the use of data and analytics in the respondent's organisations was their biggest concern.
"Gartner are saying that by 2020 80% of businesses will show data as an asset on their balance sheet, and if you're showing it on the balance sheet it means you need to do something with it, you need to be able to leverage it.
"I think increasingly that growth is driven by people's belief that there is value to be had in the information assets they sit on, both in creating them and then exploiting them."
New reporting lines
Day manages a team of 50 and reports to Chief Financial Office Kevin O'Byrne, another recent appointment. Sainsbury's has also recruited a new Group CIO to help him navigate the company's digital journey through its turbulent merger with Argos and beyond.
Perennial CIO 100 high-flyer Phil Jordan will be a familiar face in the office for Day, as the two worked together at Telefonica for a number of years. Neither of them has a background in retail, but Day doesn't believe that is a problem. Jordan starts his role as Group CIO in January 2018 reporting to CEO and serving as a member of the company's operating board.
"I think probably you hit a wall in terms of understanding the sector," he says. "It's more about learning the business and learning a sector and making sure that you don't make a fool of yourself by suggesting something that just in the physical retail world, the physical world you literally couldn't do. Any new business you come into is like hitting a bit a wall at some point."
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