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Tom Betts, Chief Data Officer, Kingfisher

Describe your career to date

 

I always say I have had three careers so far: The first in the music industry, the second running a travel-focused tech start-up, and the third in data. I studied two degrees in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) and then discovered that the only jobs in AI were in academia. I took a job in analytics – first consulting, then client side working at the Financial Times as a digital analyst. My role grew with our success and the growth of analytics and data science. I became the FT’s first CDO in 2015. In 2020 I left the FT and took a leap into retail at Kingfisher, the FTSE100 European retail group. At Kingfisher I lead the group-wide data strategy and implementation. I have built several new teams, and our success has helped cement data as one of the eight pillars of the corporate strategy. 

How are you developing the data literacy of your organisation, including the skills of your data teams and of your business stakeholders?  

 

Most recently we have had a heavy vias towards generative AI (genAI) – harnessing the collective enthusiasm and using it as an opportunity to explain data more broadly. Our approach has been to demonstrate capability (rather than just teach it) and we have also made the sessions interactive. At Kingfisher we have developed an in-house orchestration framework for genAI technologies. Using this framework, we have developed a game which allows participants to train their own retail virtual assistant with specialist knowledge of the home improvement industry. Participants compete for the top spot in our leaderboard. While this exercise is quite fun, it confirms a hypothesis that showing what is possible, rather than just talking, is far more impactful to learning outcomes. We have successfully run sessions across the group executive and top 120 leaders, and we have run open access versions, and will shortly deliver the same to each of our operating companies. It is great to see real pull for education on data topics! 

 

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 managed to get traction with our data plans after tying it directly into our corporate strategy. You could therefore see our vision for data through the priority outcomes that we have defined (eg AI-powered pricing, supply chain visibility and optimisation, personalisation and data monetisation). This approach has allowed us to get escape velocity and brought focus to our data plans. 

Tom Betts
has been included in:
  • 100 Brands 2019 (EMEA)
  • 100 Brands 2024 (EMEA)