Mike Bracken: Digital Skills Festival, data principles and welcoming our new CEO

Mike: Hello. It’s the sixth full week of the year. Sorry to miss a week last week due to holidays.

Some big news this week. First thing to say is Co-op has a new CEO. Richard Pennycook, who is the person who has sponsored much of the digital work and the creation of the team, has stepped down. Steve Murrells who is the guy that’s been running and really driving our business, our food business, has stepped up as the new CEO. It’s been a really smooth transition this week and it’s been great to work with Steve and we’ll help him develop the digital vision for the Co-op. Richard won’t be saying goodbye because he’ll still be helping our Group Board and he’ll still be around with other parts of our businesses. So that’s the first thing to say. It’s big news. What does it mean to us? Not much right now. We just keep going and delivering.

So, 5 things to talk about this week. The first is data principles. We published our data principles. If you’re watching this, go to our blog, have a look at them, comment on them and help us improve them. Those principles are about how we deal with member data and how we deal with data in the wider digital economy will be the thing that sets us apart as a co-op in the future.

Some numbers. Our Membership numbers keep growing. The campaign to get new members is only just starting so hopefully we’re well on track for a million new members this year. That’s brilliant.

And closer to home this week we had the Manchester Digital Skills Festival. It was great to see the entire team present and loads of people coming from the region who want to work with and for the Co-op and help us on our digital journey. So a brilliant week, quite a big one but we passed some big milestones.

But I should finish by saying welcome to some new starters. Great to see Adam Warburton to come in and help us on our Membership and we’ve got 2 new outstanding product managers in Anna Goss and Faith Mowbray so we’ll keep announcing new people and we’ll keep bringing great talent to the organisation. Until next week, see you then.

Mike Bracken
Chief Digital Officer

Championing a better way of doing data

Blue background with white text that says 'championing a better way of doing data.'

We want to bring the Co-op difference to data. That means going beyond what is simply required by law, and instead infusing the way we collect and handle data with the Co-op’s values.

Practically, we want the Co-op’s data to be: correct and up to date; secure; available to those who need it within the Group and easy to find, understand, connect and augment. That will help us make decisions based on data. We’ll arrive at better decisions more quickly because the information we need will be easy to find and use. It will also help us spot new opportunities across the business, quickly, creating new opportunities because we are joining the dots. We’ll also be able to build better relationships with our partners because data that is well-maintained and with consistent standards can act as common language between us and them.

So, how do we get there? Well, we all have a role. We’ll need to set common standards and provide tools and ways of working needed: data principles.

As importantly, we need to create a culture at the Co-op that isn’t complacent about data and problems with data, but instead fixes those issues at source. We should think and care about how data is used once it is created. Everybody has a role to play in data. Thinking about data and asking how to use it and why will become a habit.

Some of this isn’t new and many people at the Co-op have been doing good work for a long time. Helping and supporting those people to continue to do their jobs is important. That’s why we’ve been convening and meeting with Data Leaders, and why we’re including colleagues from data teams across the business to work out what values we want to hold our data to from now on.

Data and the Co-op values

To help us think about this, we’ve started to look at how Co-operative values like self-help, self-responsibility, solidarity and equity might manifest in data.

We’ve come up with a Data Principles alpha to help colleagues working with data at the Co-op. The principles are based on workshops we’ve had with colleagues, and we’re going to be running more user research sessions to make sure that they are relevant and helpful for colleagues at every level. We’ve done a few versions of data principles, and based on colleague feedback on previous iterations we’re sharing what we’ve learnt publicly.

Important themes

1. Data is part of everything

The data function does not work in isolation. Everyone does their bit to collect and create  good data, which can be used as the basis for making decisions. We are focused on what Co-op members and customers want and need, and respond to that quickly. Colleagues have the necessary tools to do so, and are trained in how to use data and to spot opportunities.

2. Clarity is for everyone

We will communicate how we use and collect data in a way that both specialists and non-specialists can understand. We’ll use consistent terms and standards that are externally recognisable, as well as use plain English to help members meaningfully consent to how the Co-op uses their data.

3. One version of the truth

Major data sets will have a designated owner and steward, who is in charge of keeping them updated, accurate and complete according to defined goals. All significant data sets will be listed and visible to all staff in a Central Data Catalogue, rather than relying on local duplicate, or inconsistent versions.

4. Co-operating safely

We will use data across the business where appropriate and ethical. We encourage co-operating about data, safely and securely, working together for mutual benefit.

We’re still testing these and we’re keen to hear colleague, customer and member thoughts on them. If you have feedback on these principles, leave a comment below and join the conversation.

Catherine Brien
Data Science Director