We recently caught up with Ashleigh Waterson, who is the data lead at Netflorist. Since it’s inception, Netflorist has been a pioneer in the South African eCommerce space, with data management at the core of its growth and success.
Thanks for your time Ashleigh. Perhaps we can start with you telling us a bit about your background and how you ended up in your current role.
I come from a background in Market Research and Management Consulting, so before Neflorist I had been exposed to different types of data, across various industries. I joined the Netflorist team out of the business’s goal to create a culture of testing and optimisation. Ryan Bacher, Netflorist’s Managing Director, has a vision of the business progressing into a completely customer-driven e-commerce business, which requires a business unit dedicated to analytics and testing.
What is the biggest challenge you face within your role today and how are you looking to tackle it?
The biggest challenge we face is the difficulty and length of time required for data integration. Netflorist was founded in 1999, so many of the current systems entered the business at different points of time. Centralising data from sources that are not necessarily congruent, and then analysing this data, is both complex and time-consuming. To address this need, Netflorist develops systems in-house, with the objective of reducing the time taken between data analysis and actioning insights. That’s the final goal: being in a position where real time analytics leads to quicker decision making.
How is data being valued or prioritised in the business?
By working towards a more integrated data approach, we hope to optimise on the time between the business question arising and actionable insights being generated. This is relevant to teams within the organisation. Currently, data analytics at Netflorist is focussed on ensuring “onsite” optimisation (ultimately improving the conversion rate), and seeing what insights Marketing can leverage through deeper investigation of our customer database.
There seems to be an endless stream of new software/tech options in the market. How do you determine what technology to invest in, and where to build in-house?
Netflorist has historically built this tech in-house. Whilst we leverage some third-party options, the flexibility and control from in-house development has brought, and continues to bring, great value to the business.
Speaking of trends, how do you interpret buzzwords like Big Data, digital transformation and artificial intelligence?
I think the hype around big data has been coupled with a lack of understanding that often overwhelms, instead of enlightens. The hype is beneficial in the sense that it puts the spotlight on data and highlights the importance of analytics in any organisation. New buzzwords also drive curiosity and encourage the exploration of new, better tools… tools that were developed out of a need for enhanced processing power and data growth. This allows for new business ideas, which leads to overall optimisation.
What was the wisest advice you received from a mentor? What would you pass on to your mentees?
A mentor once told me that a career should not be viewed as a ladder, but rather as a jungle gym. Challenges will be apparent throughout one’s career, like the different obstacles faced as one moves laterally on a jungle gym. Furthermore, if one is distracted by focussing solely on a vertical progression, opportunities to develop other valuable skills will be missed.
What are you most looking forward to at the Chief Data & Analytics Officer Africa conference?
I am looking forward to the opportunity to gain insights from Chief Data Officers in Industry. As mentioned above, we have traditionally built systems in-house, so it will be interesting to see what third-party systems other business are leveraging: to see what these solutions offer and where we may be missing out on opportunities.
Ashleigh will co-chair a discussion group on implementing different tech layers to capture data on 12 June at Chief Data & Analytics Officer Africa 2018.