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November 9, 2020

Sainsbury’s ‘all-in’ on data and cloud to handle customer demand

Sainsbury's CIO Phil Jordan says FTSE 100 retailer becoming a data-driven company.

By Edward Qualtrough

Technology has been the enabler for FTSE 100 retailer Sainsbury’s to scale its operations, and accelerate the pivot from physical to online transactions during the disruption and retail peaks brought about by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Sainsbury’s, its tech function and CIO, Phil Jordan, are recognised in Tech Monitor‘s Technology Leaders Index as cloud and data pacesetters. At New Statesman Media Group‘s Virtual CIO Symposium in April 2020, Jordan said its cloud-first approach and digital transformation initiatives that had taken place over the preceding two years had provided the platform for the retailer’s digital business operations and new operating cadence.

A bank of Sainsbury’s mobile self-scanning ‘SmartShop’ devices. (Photo by Shanae Ennis-Melhado/Shutterstock)

By mid-April, Jordan said that Sainbury’s was fulfilling 50% more online orders and twice as many click-and-collects as it was just over a month previously, as well as significantly increased adoption of its mobile self-scanning SmartShop system.

“We’ve been able to deal with repeated peaks, day after day without really planning for it,” Jordan said. “It’s been an absolute proof-point of cloud, and there’s no doubt we’ve benefitted from being a cloud-based and a cloud-first business.​​”

CIO Jordan added that digital adoption at the retailer – pivoting to remote working as well as in-store operations – had been an overwhelming success.

“We’ve gone from being a business that was piloting Microsoft Teams and thinking about Microsoft Teams, to a business actually run by Microsoft Teams,” he said. “Work we’ve done over the past two years has really paid dividends – our stores really stood up brilliantly as participation in digital in the store has gone through the roof.​”

Analysts GlobalData has noted the retailer’s data-driven approach – and its Data and Analytics Centre of Excellence – as a core tenet of its digital transformation strategy to better serve customers online and in-store, as well as tracking its investments and pilots in AR and VR, blockchain, AI and machine learning.

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Indeed, CIO Phil Jordan told Tech Monitor publisher New Statesman Media Group that while “digital is all about automation and real-time automated experiences, really the differentiation is in the data and understanding customers”.

“We are all-in on data,” he said. “We need to democratise data – get it out of its core systems and put it in an environment where we can understand it and make it actionable.​ There’s an awful lot of awareness and business change associated with becoming a data-driven company and we’re on that journey.​”

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