As part of our Q&A blog series, Andy Tunstall, our UK Sales Manager, discusses the key data challenges in retail, and how data can help retailers find the new normal following the pandemic.
What’s your job role at InterSystems and what does it involve?
I am one of the UK Sales Managers, and I have a particular focus on the retail industry. My role concentrates on winning new business by convincing prospects that we can help them maximise the value of their data at speed and scale their digital transformation initiatives.
Can you give a brief background of your career prior to InterSystems?
Prior to joining InterSystems, I worked at Oracle as an account director for enterprise applications. Before that, I worked for IBM, focusing on banking analytics and helping the company’s largest global clients exploit the value of information.
How would you explain InterSystems to a prospect?
If I was talking to a senior level leader in a traditional retail organisation, I’d say we have the means to enhance the way your systems speak to each other. If you are struggling with extended ecosystems into your supply chains that don’t interact, we can help bring that information together in a meaningful manner that will allow you derive real insights and drive change.
Why is data important?
Largely because of the enhanced business insight it gives you. It is key in the supply chain where it can support collaboration by providing a shared perspective. When retailers and suppliers have the same perspective on demand and work together to understand changing consumer desires, they can collaborate to satisfy that demand. The ability to adapt based on a shared understanding of the current reality can substantially benefit both organisations. Once they have the relevant data and insights to address blind spots in the extended supply chain, companies can begin to address those gaps with integrated processes that enable agility and automate their response.
What are the key data challenges in retail?
From the retail perspective, it is time to move away from relying on gut feel. Today, there is much more potential for ongoing disruption and retailers therefore need to be able to understand what is going on across all the lines of their business: sales, marketing the supply chain, external customer sentiment. Retailers need to be able to pull all that information in and then have tools in place that enable them to make the best decisions based on that. It has not been easy in the past because tools have been hard to use and expensive, and there’s been a skills gap in understanding how to make use of those tools.
What’s your biggest frustration in the world of data?
When data is inaccurate, or of poor quality. Businesses must be able to trust that the data they are using to make business decisions is accurate and timely. Only then can processes be re-visited and updated to leverage integrated data and the resulting insights.
How can data help organisations finding the ‘new normal’ following the pandemic?
While we have certainly never seen business interruptions like Covid-19 before, there are steps that can be taken to enable companies across all industry segments to be more agile and responsive to unforeseen fluctuations in supply and demand – both now and in the future. Clues are hidden in the data, but the mountain of transactions makes it difficult to extract useful insights. The good news is that we no longer need to rely on spreadsheets or manual manipulation to obtain the information we need and new technology platforms can even connect multiple data sources to complete the picture.
I truly believe supply chains can be transformed by connecting the dots between data already being captured. This is why so much attention is being paid to digital initiatives that create visibility and leverage sophisticated analytics. In the retail world, this may translate into better collaboration between retailers and suppliers, particularly around demand data
What are the top issues your clients and partners have been facing during the pandemic?
The biggest issue we see clients and partners facing today is having the ability to rapidly scale their business based on the change in demand they have seen in due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Some have struggled to scale up their infrastructure and their applications to deal with these changes. That has led some to question whether the technology platform they are on right now is the right one for their business and we are talking to these kinds of businesses now about moving their applications onto an elastic public cloud environment whereby they are able to scale up or scale down that environment more rapidly. That, in turn, leads to other questions about the expertise of those organisations in terms of working with cloud environments which many of them are not used to.
What is required is an infrastructure that is flexible and agile enough to meet the kind of challenge Covid-19 presents, both now and in the future.
What are the biggest benefits you’ve seen in the utilisation of AI whilst working at InterSystems?
Ultimately, artificial intelligence and machine learning can be employed to drive better decision-making. These transformations are driven by the need to become more agile and resilient, which has been accelerated by the pandemic.
Tell us something about yourself that your work colleagues wouldn’t know.
I’m an avid cyclist. Since the lockdown began, I’ve been hanging out at my LBS (local bike shop for those uninitiated to the cycling community) and have been amazed at the volume of expensive road bikes flying off the shelves.