Entire industries are being disrupted by emerging data-native companies as data science and analytics innovators are building business models with data at the center of their strategy. Gartner predicts that by 2022, 90% of corporate strategies will explicitly mention information as a critical enterprise asset and analytics as an essential competency. The potential impacts of data programs are boundless. From product design and sales forecasting, to marketing personalization and pricing, leveraging data and analytics sets companies up to succeed and differentiates them from competitors.

A prime example in the retail industry is Stich Fix, a fashion-based subscription service. According to Katarina Lake, Founder and CEO of Stitch Fix, their model is to “leverage data science to deliver personalization at scale, transcending traditional brick-and-mortar and e-commerce retail experiences" (HBR).

Customers of Stitch Fix feel like they get a personal stylist that makes shopping easy. The link between data and consumer experience is quite compelling in this case, and traditional retailers should take notice.


Propeller consultants consistently see business leaders wanting to unlock insights at many points along the value chain. One of our clients, a large consumer retailer, recently embarked on the challenge to pursue a large-scale data-driven business transformation. Their people-first approach may serve as an example for other business leaders looking to accomplish something similar.

A Fortune 500 enterprise company, which serves multi-billion-dollar brands, was initiating an overhaul of its data organization. The initiative followed a mandate from the CEO to bring data to the center of decisions and actions across all levels of the multi-brand company. The vision was to enable data-informed decisions across the value chain, from product design and manufacturing, supply chain logistics and allocation, to marketing personalization and the right mix between brick-and-mortar and online product.


To align to this new strategic direction, our client sought to centralize analytics across the company and redesign its data and analytics team from the inside out. How? By starting with their greatest asset: people. Ultimately, retention and empowerment of their employees was priority number one. In a competitive market facing dynamic changes, they needed to both keep the talent they had, and appeal to new talent, all while creating new processes at an enterprise level.

The initiative was led by a team from Propeller. They started by designing an organizational framework to assess operational performance across people, process, enablers, and structure. To understand the work from the employees’ perspective, they interviewed senior leaders and employees across the company–from brand executives running multi-billion-dollar P&L’s to data scientists. They also collected best practices from leading data and analytics companies on organizational structure, decision rights, and rules of engagement.

After multiple rounds of interviews, and a survey of the entire organization, the team aggregated results, identified 10 core themes, and built out five key recommendations with prioritized initiatives ready for execution:


Inspiring teams to drive behavior change across all levels of an organization involves establishing a clear, aligned vision for how data and analytics will drive profitable and sustainable growth across the retail value chain. This understanding leads to increased employee engagement and lower attrition, improved sense of vision, clarity, and purpose, greater motivation internally and externally, and strategic alignment.


Eliminating organizational drag involves redesigning how internal and external teams interact, reducing matrixed decision-making, and forming dedicated capability teams. This results in stronger relationships with partners through improved service delivery, more innovation tied to key initiatives, and greater clarity of roles and efficiencies.


Optimizing workflow, increasing quality, and delivering value quickly and predictably can be done by leveraging agile and lean portfolio practices to manage current work commitments and key initiatives. These efforts result in faster end-to-end capability delivery, higher quality data models, increased visibility to work, and adoption of agile processes. Watch our short video series on the benefits of Agile.


Diffusing data across the company is accomplished by prioritizing work to build a unified data platform, as well as growing a data-driven culture through partner engagement strategies. The results include higher partner data literacy and stronger sentiments around partner collaboration.


Developing a world-class team across all levels involves robust training and personalized coaching to build hard and soft skills. It also means optimizing the employee experience by improving recruitment and onboarding practices along with career development and leadership opportunities. This leads to increased team and management effectiveness, alignment of team abilities with data and analytics strategies, increased employee engagement, and more positive feelings about potential career advancement and team cohesion.

While some adjustments will be made to meet the changing needs of the organization and marketplace, any data-driven transformation effort will require key elements that reach into mission-critical activities. These include building an enterprise data platform, putting data governance controls into place, creating a culture of testing and innovation, and redesigning processes to support analytics.

Changing the way an organization operates is never easy. Changing a culture across a large organization can feel impossible. But changing the way PEOPLE work is core to staying competitive in today’s market. Embracing and realizing the capabilities and principles of a high-functioning data and analytics organization requires leadership and grit. It involves inspiring and motivating to retain top talent and attract the best candidates in the field. 

It also requires a fundamental understanding of the foundations that need to be set to unlock business value through data-driven decision making. And most of all, it requires persistence, and in true data-science fashion, measurable and iterative strategies to track progress.

Are you looking to make data and analytics a priority within your company? What does that change look like for you? It’s important to keep these recommendations in mind whether you’re beginning your transformation or in the middle of it.

Learn more about Propeller’s Data and Analytics Practice.