Marks & Spencer set up data academy

Marks & Spencer will offer over 1,000 staff members from every function of retail – from store managers to finance – the opportunity to develop their digital skills.

The leadership team will also embark on a Data Leadership programme enabling the opportunity to get hands-on with technology such as machine learning and artificial intelligence to become “the most data-literate leadership team in retail.”

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Employees will be encouraged to enrol in The Data Fellowship, an 18-month data science skills programme, where they will learn to harness cutting-edge data analytics tools such as “R” and “Python” and adopt technologies such as machine learning. Learners who finish this programme will get a data analytics qualification accredited by the British Computing Society.

Steve Rowe, Chief Executive said: “This is our biggest digital investment in our people to date and the creation of the M&S Data Academy will upskill colleagues and provide them with an in-depth level of digital literacy as well as a Data Analytics qualification.”

“Transformation of our business is key to survival, and a huge part of this lies with our colleagues. We need to change their digital behaviours, mindsets and our culture to make the business fit for the digital age and our partnership with Decoded will enable us to do this.”

>See also: Key employer challenges for 2018 amid the digital skills crisis

Nick Ford, Chief Technology Evangelist at Mendix, commented: “Retail is a notoriously competitive sector, so it’s no surprise to see traditional retailers such as M&S considering how to catch-up with online giants on the path to digital transformation. As more businesses look to launch new digital services, many complain that they can’t find enough people to make this happen. The reality, however, is often not what it seems as even legacy companies have plenty of digitally skilled people.”

“The problem is that many businesses are not set-up to adequately nurture those skills. This means that talented people are not encouraged – or even not allowed – to take part in strategically important digital projects. Instead, they remain “trapped” inside legacy structures that stifle their capabilities.”

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“So businesses are not short of digital skills, what they’re lacking is the digital mindsets to drive transformation. This great initiative from M&S really taps into that issue – helping equip current employees with the skills to make a difference, rather than gazing outside their business and hoping the change-makers come.”

“Even outside data science and into business application development, there are plenty of “citizen developers” lying in wait inside many businesses. These employees often have the right ideas, ambition and desire to collaborate – so again it’s the wider digital mindset that needs to change, not the digital skills. Organisations simply need to encourage and bring these people into the broader business, empowering integrated teams to embrace experimentation, and find the right applications. Only with the right attitudes coming together from all parties can digital projects be successful.”

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Andrew Ross

As a reporter with Information Age, Andrew Ross writes articles for technology leaders; helping them manage business critical issues both for today and in the future