Coles Group's mission to tap into untouched data

It also promises to pay back employees who have been incorrectly paid.
Written by Aimee Chanthadavong, Contributor

Supermarket giant Coles Group has revealed that as the company goes through its multi-year agile strategy refresh, it has also looked at how to tap into existing datasets that remain largely untouched.

"We're sitting on this unexplored, or largely unexplored, data. We have this volume, this scaled advantage … [and] it's time to see how we can capture that to our advantage," Coles Group technology strategy principal Rui Moura said, speaking at Gartner Data & Analytics Summit in Sydney this week.

Moura blames part of the lack of action to date on the complexity surrounding the data sources, which are mainly existing legacy systems and core applications.

"We've got systems for most of the critical areas of the business. We've got data generated by those systems and people using those systems. We've got the analytics models to play with as well -- because we started this journey a while back -- but it's still hard to get the value," he said.

Consequently, Moura said the plans around Coles' data journey have so far been either "vague or a lot of invisible thoughts".

One way Coles has gone about extracting the value of its data has been partnering with third-party vendors to help digitise its platforms so they're flexible enough to use the data.

"There are ways we bring vendors in and we work with third parties and other companies to create these in-house and vendor solutions in a very targeted way that we both co-exist," Moura said.

The supermarket giant also announced this week that it has set aside AU$20 million to pay back employees.

It comes after the company launched its own review and found that those who were paid a salary under the General Retail Industry Award (GRIA) -- which were approximately 5% of its supermarket and liquor store managers, or less than 1% of the Coles Group's total workforce -- were incorrectly paid. 

"We aim to make Coles a great place to work, and apologise to those team members who have been unintentionally affected," Coles Group CEO Steven Cain said in a statement.

"We are working at pace with a team of external experts to finalise our review. Once completed we will contact all affected team members, both current and former, to remediate any identified differences in full.

"Coles has implemented steps to improve our systems and processes."

For the half year period to January 5, the retail giant recorded net profit after tax of AU$489 million, and earnings before interest and tax of AU$910 million. 

Updated 20 February 2020, 10:16 AM (AEDT): Clarification that Coles Group incorrectly paid those who are paid salaries under the General Retail Industry Award, which is a group that makes up less than 1% of the company's total workforce. 

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