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In this episode, Jason Foster talks to Helen Mannion, global data director at Specsavers, about their journey, the strategy and structure that brought breakthroughs to their data team; plus how they achieved the success that they have now at Specsavers.

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 One Big Message

It’s crucial to have the right people in the business with you. It’s so much easier if people are really behind you to get to the place where you need them to be and to drive benefit.

[01:01] What Specsavers is as a company, and its business model.

[04:00] Helen shares her background in data and how she started her role at Specsavers.

[05:18] The remit Helen had on the way in Specsavers

[07:26] The big stepping stones to the transformation journey

[10:20] How did the team define its strategy to get buy-in?

[19:19] Organisation structure and the way of working at Specsavers

[25:42] Helen shares how she maintains the relationship between business units and their team.

[28:32] Cultural change as a big part of Specsavers organisation.

[32:39] What do the next three years look like for Specsavers?


Specsavers isn’t really just about glasses

Specsavers is a great company that has quite a big footprint, with multiple stores in Northern Europe, Australia, New Zealand, the UK and in Canada (most recently), summing up to 2000 stores. It’s a family-run business that has been around for about 35 years.

The culture is to care; a lovely organisation that is focused on creating better experiences for its patients. The aim is to make a difference in providing better healthcare and needs for improving people’s sight and hearing.

Specsavers works with optometrists and audiologists. They are not just a retail selling glasses. The reason that they sell glasses is that they want to help improve and save people’s sight. Optometrists can identify other illnesses by checking one’s eyesight. For instance, a certain eye problem cannot only affect your sight but can also be a potential brain tumor. This is a good example of something that takes Specsavers beyond eyewear. They’re about the health benefits.


Big stepping stones that precede breakthrough

The overarching ambition in the strategy Specsavers had three years ago is to create an organisation where everybody, no matter what their skill level, can benefit from data. That ranges from clinicians in stores all the way through to developers in technology engineering teams and everybody in between.

Completely transforming their platform has brought a massive breakthrough, allowing a lot more people to gain access to data and get it all in one place. Specsavers is still evolving in this area but significant progress has been made already with 60% of customer data sources now in the central environment.

Predictive modeling has helped them save 6,000 people by reporting it out to all clinicians within the UK store. Many people have been impacted positively using their data so they continue their objective to try and get everybody, providing them the platform, the tools, the data in the best formats to make sure that everybody can create value from it.


Showcasing the benefits of data

Specsavers’ way of working is to constantly try to enable others, providing people with relevant tools and capability. It could be training. It could be a platform, but all-around enabling. Another area that they choose to focus on is to showcase the benefits the data brings. Delivering projects in their own right showcases the benefits.

Over the last three years, Specsavers data team delivered showcase-projects that aren’t all intended to be rolled out for the central team in the longer-term. This year, they’ll be transitioning some of those things into the wider organisation – now there is an understanding of what’s possible, and other teams will pick them up and run them from now on.

It’s all about trying to showcase the benefits and get people really excited about what data can provide, then they want to join the journey.


Invest in people as if it’s a personal investment

Show people, educate people, and be patient because success breeds success. Some of the upfront investment is needed from individuals – that you’ve got to do – and you’ve got to put in the time scale, just like a personal investment, to upskill and transition to a new way of working.

If people really want to do something themselves, they’ll be extremely motivated and dedicated to doing it. People need to know that there’s value in engaging. When people feel like they want to do them, that’s when the tide turns.

Showcasing and educating people is really important, but you need to be patient and wait for someone to get to that point.


To summarise

It’s all about how we can help more people in the organisation to be more successful at using data. It helps free up time to deliver more advanced, more exciting analytics within the team to develop new areas. The real knowledge of how data can be used most effectively sits within the business areas, not within a central global team.

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