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CIO50 2021 #23: Simon Kennedy, Foodstuffs North Island

  • Name Simon Kennedy
  • Title Chief Digital Officer
  • Company Foodstuffs North Island
  • Commenced role
  • Reporting Line CEO
  • Member of the Executive Team Yes
  • Technology Function 280 staff, eight direct reports
  • The vision and mission at Foodstuffs North Island (FSNI) is to align everything the organisation does to its customers’ wants and needs, served through its retail banners – PAK’nSAVE, New World and Four Square – and wholesale banner, Gilmours.

    For chief data officer Simon Kennedy it’s obvious where these insights come from? Data of course! 

    The challenge is how to refine the data to reveal the insights, and that is the origin story for the organisation’s ‘Single View of Customer’ innovation. Ultimately, it transformed the way FSNI uses data, lifting the percentage of retail transactions from which it can take insights from 25% to close on 90%, significantly improving outcomes for our customers.

    “Like most innovation, Single View of Customer (“SVC”) was less about invention and more the recombination of existing know-how to devise a new breakthrough capability. Our goal was to create a data set from which to understand customers’ actions and motivations, not just within any one of our retail banners, but across all of them. This could then power an array of tools supplied by our partner dunnhumby, generating the insights to drive better propositions, and a better overall experience, for customers,” Kennedy says.

    The complicating factor was that most transactions in their retail stores are anonymous, and while we it can deploy programmes to increase the number of identifiable transactions, this wasn’t going to happen fast enough to deliver on our strategy, Kennedy says. Additionally, architects had to solve for combining product-level data sets from across retail banners with different ranges and product hierarchies. Then, the engineering challenge became how to include enough history to provide insight from Day 1, while also being sufficiently performant to support continuous on-going refreshes.

    Adhering strictly to ‘privacy by design’ principles, the architecture and data teams worked through iterations of design in late 2019 to achieve a viable option that could deliver usable levels of quality and quantity of data.  The solution combined or re-worked loyalty scheme data and capability, identity tokenisation, payment card tokenisation, cross-banner data-matching algorithms and aggregated behavioural modelling to do just that.

    New Year 2020 and the build was in full swing towards an April target launch. Then Covid-19 arrived.  Under Kennedy’s leadership, the team maintained productivity and focus despite the disruption – and on Friday 17th April, with New Zealand still in Level 4 lockdown, the solution was signed off and “SVC” was live.

    The value? SVC has exceeded functional performance expectations and changed the way FSNI operates. This foundational element has facilitated successive operational insight tools deployed through 2020 and into 2021, equipping its retail stores, and the teams at the Support Centre, to deliver more consistently on the customer promises it strives for.

    Improving collaboration across teams

    Kennedy has led a number of initiatives and influencing strategies over the last year, all of which have an emphasis on improving the ability of teams across Foodstuffs to work together with a better understanding of common objectives, shared constraints and respective contributions. 

    These include introducing cross-functional leadership groups to work on prioritisation, resource allocation and sequencing within five “value streams” that bring together relevant stakeholders to make well-informed choices.  This approach reduces the risk associated with “apples with pears” comparisons of opportunities, and ensures that capacity constraints – including, but not only, in technology teams – are positively factored in.

    Another is enriching dialogue at board level by hosting one of the board committees for an immersive experience with the digital delivery teams. The enables them to meet the practitioners, who brought to life the journey from strategy to shipped product, via ideation, testing prototypes with customers, user experience design, development and on-going continuous feature improvement,” Kennedy says.

    “In line with our “customer driven” strategy, when leaders at any level come together to solve challenges and make choices about how we will use our resources, the functional hats come off, our customer goggles are put on, and we make the decisions our customers would want us to make.”

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