Marks and Spencer – Suzanne Howse, Head of Enterprise Data

Building the digital and data capabilities of our colleagues is something we’ve been working hard on over the last few years and is a central part of the M&S transformation.

As an international business with 80,000 colleagues who work in stores and support centres in over 60 countries, this is a huge undertaking – but we’re very much aware of the importance of developing a data driven and digitally enabled culture. It’s crucial to the future of our business, and while there is still more for us to achieve, we’re pleased with the progress we’ve made so far.

In 2018 we created the world’s first ever Data Academy in retail, launching an 18-month level four apprenticeship to upskill colleagues through data. Since then, over 200 colleagues have graduated from the scheme with a fully accredited qualification in Data Analytics, and we’ve boosted our data academy further by adding a Data Technician programme to help us reach and upskill even more colleagues.
Alongside formal qualifications, we’ve also made sure training is available to anyone that wants or requires it.

From giving each and every store colleague access to online learning modules, to hosting a virtual ‘Power BI’ training event for 3000 of our store managers last quarter.

Our increased collective understanding and proficiency in cutting-edge visualisation tool ‘Power BI’ has revolutionised the way we review performance across our business, both at a store level and at a leadership level (as sponsored and modelled every day by our retail directors).

While we have already made great strides on our data journey, it is far from over yet. We have huge aspirations to see a further step-change in our colleagues’ capability, maturity, and confidence in using the digital tools available to them via our leading BEAM Academy.

When it comes to driving positive and meaningful change, we’re big believers that we must all work together – which is why we’re a proud member of the FutureDotNow coalition. Only by pooling together our collective insights and might will we overcome the growing skills gap and empower the UK to thrive in a digital future.