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Robert Kent, Chief Data Officer, Pets at Home

Describe your career to date 

I’d spent most of my time in consulting and technology roles which led to me being in business-facing technology roles for a large part of my 30-year career. I then hit a fork in the road and in 2010 I led data and analytics as a business function.

 

I then spent many fruitful years at the Royal Mail, eight years of which as their first chief data officer, leading the company’s group business intelligence and data science function created from a blank sheet of paper and growing to over 120 data and analytical professionals. 

 

For the past four years, I have been part of the executive team at Pets at Home, to set out and establish the strategy of harnessing the power of data and analytics that will continue to grow the UK pet care business.

What stage has your organisation reached on its data maturity journey? 

Somewhere between data cultured and data native. We are fortunate to have board level representation – in me; tangible financial results which we are measured by; and our business and data strategies are in lock-step. That’s not to say that, by any stretch, we are done and there remains plenty to do to raise the capability across the whole organisation. There is always plenty more we should learn.

 

Tell us about the data and analytics resources you are responsible for

My remit at Pets at Home spans “all things data” and there are 70 colleagues in the UK, covering a range of disciplines – from governance to AI – and they all report into me. We have a small DPO team, a cloud and data lakehouse engineering and platform team, a team of visualisation experts, a CRM and digital analytics team and, last but not least, the data science and insight team.

What challenges do you see for data in the year ahead that will have an impact on your organisation and on the industry as a whole? 

Firstly, we need to continue to monitor any changing consumer behaviours and ensure that we are using all of our capability to anticipate and shine a light on these trends and inform what to do about it. Data and analytics is perfectly positioned, however, the challenge is that it’s difficult to get the breadth of data needed.

 

Secondly, recruitment and retention will remain a challenge. We continue to position ourselves on the basis of our vision and how it is hand in glove with what the business wants to achieve. It also helps that we have some decent tech to play with.

Have you set out a vision for data? If so, what is it aiming for and does it embrace the whole organisation or just the data function? 

We set out our ambition and vision nearly four years ago to make insight and AI as prevalent across the organisation as we can. This is to enable the business to be the consumer centric, omnichannel and sustainable organisation that it continues to be.

 

Have you been able to fix the data foundations of your organisation, particularly with regard to data quality?

We have made great strides in getting our customer data as accurate as it can be and the proof is in our CRM effectiveness. We have just refreshed our data governance framework to now focus more on colleague and product as the next stage.

Robert Kent
has been included in:
  • 100 Brands 2019 (EMEA)
  • 100 Brands 2020 (EMEA)
  • 100 Brands 2022 (EMEA)
  • 100 Brands 2023 (EMEA)
  • No.10 100 Brands 2021 (EMEA)