The aim is to ensure the end product is easy to use and valuable, and it means the training and engagement is as important as providing the BI in the first place.
Lilia Santos, CFO, Medik8
When Inflexion backed the buyout of luxury skincare brand Medik8 in February 2021, the business had a fantastic reputation based on its science-based approach to products, with an equally impressive commitment to ethical practices.
What was lacking was its digital capabilities, with its existing data warehouse not quite future-ready: The multiple BI tools they used were developed as Medik8 grew and were primarily focused on financial information. The ERP system, which served as the main source of information, was approximately 10 years old and vulnerable to cybersecurity threats. Most of the business operations relied on spreadsheets, making it time-consuming to generate reports – time that should have been spent analysing data – and by the time they were downloaded, they were already outdated.
“We faced challenges with multiple sources of truth and limited visibility into our data, so in September 2022, we made the decision to overhaul our systems entirely,” CFO Lilia Santos recalls, adding that Inflexion had challenged them to deliver exceptional data-driven results. She admits it was a difficult undertaking, but that by tackling all the changes simultaneously, they were able to approach the transformation holistically and enhance the decision-making processes. “Looking back, it was a rewarding experience to revamp everything at once.”
Inflexion helped from the beginning, defining the vision, scoping the different workstreams, supporting with the hiring of permanent staff and finding contractors to execute alongside the Medik8 team. Inflexion’s Data & AI team also provided advice on tech stack, data modelling, process, and priorities throughout the project.
The endeavour required buy-in from the leadership team to ensure success. “We needed clear communication from the board that the data transformation project was a strategic target, with commitment from the executive committee to make this a top priority within their teams,” Lilia stresses.
It meant changing the day-to-day work for staff and so getting their buy-in was also important. “To ensure what we do and how we do it works, we reviewed all the tools we use in the company, understanding how they are used, by whom and for what purpose. We had to make sure the sources were reliable and robust – truly key as you move people from trusted Google sheets to a BI tool,” explains Lilia.
Some basic rules applied for moving data, for example if you use a report more than 2x, it needs automation. Stakeholders and main users should be involved in the identification, creation, validation and release of the BI dashboards to ensure they are adding value, and that by being part of the process they get what they need and trust what they get.
Lilia Santos, CFO, Medik8
The firm recorded training sessions for all Tableau users to help them navigate and offers bi-weekly 30 min drop-in sessions for those who want it. “Done properly, BI should mean people spend less time creating reports and instead drawing data from existing ones and simply adding comments,” Lilia adds.
Medik8 got quick and strong adoption by involving key stakeholders in the creation and release, with progress communicated regularly to the whole company and an index page created for easy navigation with user-level filters so users only see relevant reports and dashboards.
With the data now up-and-running, the focus is now on keeping it going. “There are three key success factors here,” according to Rebecca Davies-Cooke, Head of Integrated Business Planning at Medik8:
By the end of Q3 2023, the firm aims to ensure everyone is focused on adding value from reading data rather than creating reports, with all teams using BI tools on a daily basis to elevate their roles and their contributions to the company targets. “The simple, accurate and up-to-date data should form a single source of truth and enable the team to proactively identify and act on risks and opportunities with confidence,” Lilia concludes.
“I am really proud of the Medik8 team. Their relentless focus on delivery has got them to best-in-class in under six months – and this with a lean team.” says Jan Beitner, Assistant Director for Data & AI at Inflexion.
Changing the tech stack and processes can be a daunting task. Medik8 advises having an end-state whilst remaining flexible, mapping out the desired model and tables but not spending too long on it:
We built a modern data stack and it meant making a lot of choices. There are lots to choose from and some will be right for us and others will be right for others. What’s important is that the tech lets you focus on delivering insights to the business instead of solving engineering problems. We chose Fivetran, BigQuery and dbt.
Choosing a BI tool is subjective. Everyone has their favourite and it’s a very personal thing. You need to consider your own criteria but one will always be most important and for us it was user experience and development speed, hence our decision to use Tableau.
The plan of action needed speed. Considerations were what to put in each work stream, what the ‘no regret’ moves are, giving access to raw data in the new data warehouse as a stopgap, ensuring sufficient time is spent with stakeholders to work out definitions and align wireframes, taking calculated shortcuts and using contractors to instil best practices.
Don’t reinvent the wheel. We used off-the-shelve data ingestion tools and managed cloud services, open source, pre-built data transformation code, light dimensional modelling, and public Tableaus templates.
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