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What is a data capability, and how are we approaching this at Wesfarmers?

Daniel Peric Platform Manager

At Wesfarmers, one of our key corporate value creating strategies is to develop a market leading data and digital ecosystem to enhance our customer experience and create new growth opportunities. So that the Wesfarmers brands can benefit from the rich and diverse data that we have as a group, a key focus of the AAC has been the development of a leading data capability.

A data capability is a mix of technical functions that support and drive data outcomes. It could be as simple as a large RDBMS (relational database management system) or a platform built of a multitude of components. One of the most important measures of success in building your data platform is getting the balance right between maximizing the platform capability while minimizing the complexity of solutions and technologies that have been built. The complexity of the capability is typically driven by the vision and use cases, so when choosing a technology, you should consider questions like “are we competing in this area?”, “is this a key area of functionality?” or “is speed to market a key requirement here”. If it is an area you are competing in, you’ll likely want something very flexible and opensource. If speed to market is your main driver a SaaS product will get you there faster. If it is a key area of functionality you may need to spend the time upfront gathering requirements to make sure your decisions are sound and will not impact downstream decision making.

Something else to consider is that your technology choice can also drive the capability and cost of the talent you can attract to your company. If you choose bleeding edge technology for example, you might be able to attract some of the best talent, but the cost of hiring them and the difficulty in finding the right people goes up. If you choose simpler GUI tools your hiring costs typically decrease and finding people becomes easier, but the quality of deliverables might often decrease if you don’t have highly driven, highly skilled engineers. These impacts should be considered when making technology choices as the depth and quality of your engineering skills can impact the level and speed of which you can automate or raise delivery costs whilst also slowing you down in the long run as building and operating on the platform becomes harder.

A well-designed data platform is made up of a group of decoupled technologies that resolve weaknesses in different design choices. Each technology is chosen to optimise for business and technical outcomes. These technologies integrate to create a final solution that is able to solve all or even the majority of data problems an organisation has. There is often a tension between specialised solutions that solve a single problem in the best possible way and more generalised solutions that solve many of the requirements the platform needs to meet but may sacrifice performance or flexibility to get there. Security, Data Governance and compliance are just some of the areas that hold requirements over all the technologies on the data platform and can create friction with feature requesters as they often reduce flexibility and drive ways of working that are less optimal due to the increased requirements on all deliverables, but the long term success of your platform relies on them.



What does a data capability look like and how are we approaching this at Wesfarmers

The current Wesfarmers data platform capability has been built taking into account the above ideas. We map our capabilities to our strategic goals and use this to drive planning and prioritisation of the technology. This enables quick decision making by engineers who can readily understand what’s important to drive outcomes, with minimal intervention from management.

If you’re interested in learning more about the role the AAC is playing in driving the data strategy at Wesfarmers and the opportunities to join our team, head to our careers page to find out more.