Andrie Galaktiou, former Head of Data at John Lewis Partnership, discusses the role she played in establishing John Lewis’ data management team during her 13-year tenure at retail giant
For a retail giant like John Lewis Partnership, the growth of digital commerce in recent years has created big opportunities to drive sales and optimize processes with data and analytics.
But as former John Lewis Partnership Head of Data Andrie Galaktiou says in this week’s Business of Data podcast episode, few in the industry are in a position to take full advantage of these opportunities.
“It’s exciting, because I think the retail industry’s definitely moving forward,” she says. “What we need to understand is, the foundational pieces need to be done first, before you can start to think about being innovative.”
After starting her career at John Lewis in its merchandising department, Galaktiou moved into the company’s data function and played a key role in establishing its central data management team before starting a new role at Publicis Groupe in September 2021.
Kickstarting Data Investment at John Lewis
While the Global Financial Crash kickstarted data governance investment in the financial services sector, the retail industry has had no parallel event to kickstart its path to data maturity. As a result, it’s taken longer for retail executives to prioritize strategic data investments.
“The first [challenge] will always be getting the buy-in and the funding within that space,” Galaktiou says. “Sometimes it helps to start things small or start things with specific projects or pieces of work.”
“If you don’t understand what your stakeholders need or want, you’re not always going to get the right results from them”Andrie Galaktiou, former Head of Data, John Lewis Partnership
“It’s really hard to try to move forward with some of these things if people don’t get it,” she adds. “So, educating and training the business on what data is, how it works, what it can do for them, is absolutely key and one of the biggest challenges.”
For Galaktiou, starting with key programs that showcased what data could do for John Lewis helped her to securing buy-in for further investment. She also believes her background in merchandising meant she understood what mattered to stakeholders in the business.
“Having worked in that space and really understanding how systems work from their perspective – how they use the data, what they need to do with it – made it a lot easier,” she argues.
Building a Data Management Team for the Retail Sector
Once Galaktiou and her colleagues had secured executive support and signed off the company’s data strategy, her focus became building a team with the right skills to drive those plans forward.
“I don’t believe there is a textbook answer for what a data team should look like, what the roles should be and what people should do,” she says. “You’ve got to really understand your organization, bring in the expertise from the organization as well as the expertise from understanding data and data management to really drive that forward.”
“Providing you’ve got the backing and the funding to do it, it’s about really understanding the business and where the business is at and where it’s going”Andrie Galaktiou, former Head of Data, John Lewis Partnership
“For me, it’s [about] finding people who can speak the data language, who can really understand the business,” Galaktiou continues. “The data team often sits between the business and technology, and so they have to speak three different languages. You need to be able to find people who can speak all those languages and really bring it together.”
She adds that ensuring data team roles have enough breadth for staff members to work on a variety of projects and choose the projects and focus areas that interest them most is important for staff retention.
“It doesn’t all just happen really quickly,” she concludes. “Getting the people in place is one step of that process. You’ve then got to look at all the processes and how people work together within the team [and] how people work together with the organization, and that takes time.”