Studio Retail started in 1955 as a mail order Christmas catalogue business, with the aim of putting the customer at the heart of everything they do. This led them to being one of the fastest growing digital retailers in the UK with over 1200 employees; today they provide a personal shopping service to over 1.8million customers every year.
Ed Child, Head of Enterprise Data at Studio Retail, had laid out a vision for how data could play a part in the business growth at Studio Retail, along with the strategic direction they needed to take. After understanding the data landscape at Studio, he was after support to further develop that vision and strategy, clarify their use cases and create a clear roadmap with where to get started. Ed was keen to get external, independent expertise to help, given how big, important and impactful this piece of work could be.
With buy-in from the board for the vision and strategic direction, the time was right to develop a structure, and a pragmatic data strategy, to show ‘how to get it done’ and ensure translation of data into value.
“I attend a lot of events in the data space to help me benchmark where we are as a business when it comes to data, and it was at one of these conferences that I first met Cynozure” said Ed. He was impressed with the thought leadership, expertise shared, and events offered.
“I joined the CDO Hub; this level of network and peer to peer information sharing was firmly on my agenda.”
“We had a short window to work with, and by this point I’d already seen a lot of Cynozure material online [including this whitepaper].
“I had a really good feeling after a discovery meeting with Jason” explained Ed, “Since Cynozure met the brief so well, we felt confident to get started with a discrete piece of work without a drawn out selection process”.
He went on to say “”One of the main reasons we decided to work with Cynozure is that they’re truly independent and technology agnostic.
“We have established relationships with great tech vendors, and it would have been possible to work with some of our existing vendors on individual aspects of this. But Cynozure had breadth of capability and was able to do it all: data governance, data exploitation and everything else. I knew it made sense to bring an external party in, and invest in time for them to truly understand how our business works.”
“Cynozure has expertise in a specialist space, and can give unparalleled support around data strategy. Cross-sector experience across a range of strategy topics such as operating models is beneficial for us too. I like to work with specialist agencies, and we are now moving on from consulting to what I call ‘the doing’.”
And it wasn’t just the data expertise that impressed Ed:
“What the business wanted was an on-going relationship, and one of the things that was important was a personal service – not the type of thing you usually get from big consulting firms. The aim is to build rapport and get guidance from a long-term partner. The initial engagement was really more of a testing period that enabled our relationship to blossom and continue working together.”
The discrete starting point Cynozure carried out was a data maturity assessment exercise, and data validation. They evaluated existing capability, defined the strategy for business improvement, and benchmarked against the competition.
“We’ve built a pragmatic plan to truly make Studio Retail a data guided organisation’ said Ed, adding, “Cynozure interviewed all senior personnel as part of this process; I was very impressed with the working relationships that the team at Cynozure built so quickly with everyone here.”
The success of this initial project demonstrated the value to be found in effective use of data, and supported the business case for continued investment.
Ed stated “Cynozure’s 6 pillar approach helped to articulate and benchmark where we were strong, and also where we had gaps and needed to improve – it’s comprehensive and all encompassing*. It clarified where to prioritise, and the primary business areas to focus on, and in which order.
“It brought my data strategy piece and vision (that had executive and board level buy-in already) to life. Using the 6 pillars I was able to clearly translate the vision into generation of business value – and that’s what’s important.”
The Level Up Framework is Cynozure’s methodology; it’s used to articulate the different stages of an organisation’s data journey, what you need to do at each stage and what to invest in to drive successful and incremental business outcomes.
Through the initial strategy work, Cynozure helped Studio Retail to successfully progress through stage 1, Establish the Agenda. Now they’re working through stage 2, Prove Value, in order to deliver some business return, build credibility and further develop the strategy.
“The Level Up Framework really helped to map our 3 year data strategy, and served as a great validation for what we’re doing – clearly showing incremental value at each stage along the way. This has supported the securing of on-going investment. Strong documentation and summaries gave the board the information needed for strategic decisions for the success of the business – particularly in light of COVID-19.
“Playing to our strengths enabled us to move faster, and having a solid structure to work through opened more doors for us, such as data literacy. Each step naturally leads to the next thing, then the next and so on.
“We knew that Studio Retail was a data rich company, and we are now becoming insight rich too. Data is an important part of the business portfolio, and by putting data at the heart of the business we are able to create really strong personal relationships with our customers. There is a huge opportunity to enhance our customer offering” enthused Ed.
Every team is fully bought-in and on board, and ROI will be from business teams, such as Marketing, utilising the capability put in place by Ed and the foundational work done.
“Building relationships as part of the interview process with senior personnel across the business, and indeed at all levels, has resulted in a high level of trust with the Cynozure team. The work done by Allison [Cynozure Strategy Consultant] in particular is awesome. We’ve been really impressed by everybody. Tim [Connold, Head of Consulting] has really understood our business brilliantly, and it makes sense to utilise this knowledge. We wouldn’t want to be on our data journey with anyone else.
“Cynozure is a trusted independent partner that can bring thought leadership and provide a critical sounding-board. It’s great to have support and know that we are doing the right thing.”
The nature of the initial project – and the interviews with key Studio Retail personnel, led to the team at Cynozure “really understanding how the company operates, and they can now help build capability at enterprise level” said Ed.
This is very much an on-going journey and partnership. “We’re currently leaning into the more technical aspects: looking at current architecture, auditing what is already in place and working with James [Lupton, CTO at Cynzure] on a set of recommendations to get started.” says Ed. Cynozure is also working on implementing a new hub-and-spoke organisational structure and building out data product management capabilities.
The next step will be to take the learnings from the organisation and architecture design work, implement it and continue delivering business value. “We’re looking at the foundational structure that needs to be in place within the data architecture. There is a lot that we want to do, so will need first to build the team.”
Jason Foster, Cynozure CEO commented “I couldn’t be more thrilled with the way the Cynozure and Studio teams have collaborated to define and deliver the data strategy. It’s so amazing to see our frameworks being used as the basis to drive truly transformational change and improvements. Being trusted to take such an active role in our client’s business is what gets us out of bed in the morning. We love working with Ed, his team and seeing their success”.