M&S are launching their own Data Science course – here’s our take on what it needs to succeed
Marks and Spencer is joining the digital revolution with the upcoming launch of their new data science academy. Tasked with bringing their staff up to speed with the modern digital marketplace, the academy will be open to employees from every function of the business. Its opening marks M&S’s response to a changing marketplace. Giants such as Amazon have transformed the way in which consumers shop for goods and in doing so have digitised the retail market as a whole, forcing more traditional retailers to start getting up to speed.
According to the Financial Times, “Marks and Spencer is the first publicly listed retailer in the UK to go down the path of creating a data skills academy.” As of now, this academy will offer an 18-month in-work data analytics course that aims to turn staff into data-skilled leaders. Employees will learn programming languages such as R and Python, as well as gain an exposure to machine learning. And, bearing in mind that much of the curriculum remains undisclosed, it safe to say we can expect much more on top!
We believe that there are five outcomes that M&S must aspire to achieve through the course.
Enable the business to solve their problems through data
Employees who have completed the course must have the core skills to work with complex data and be experts in programming languages. However, the value in these skills is in how they are integrated within the business. Course graduates must be able to apply this learning to real-world business problems. Therefore, classes must provide individuals with the opportunity to employ their skills in frameworks that mirror real-world applications, with a special focus on case-studies.
Address the cultural shift in becoming a data driven organisation
Data science is about more than just numbers. It’s a tool that gives companies a competitive advantage in their ability to make business decisions. After completing this course, employees should not only have the skills, but also the opportunity to impact top-level decision-making, therefore enabling M&S’s true transformation into a data-driven organisation.
Deliver advanced analytics, machine learning and AI training
An introduction to machine learning and AI will teach participants about the tremendous potential of these technologies to reform how we think about big data analysis. The next step would be a course that not only introduces these new technologies, but prepares individuals to begin employing them in the workplace. Teaching using examples of how AI might have influenced historic processes will no doubt strengthen future decision making within the business.
Create a community that ensures continuous learning
In order for individuals to take the skills they learn on this course and employ them effectively, the program must inspire social learning. Through group exercises and presentations, individuals who complete this course should be able to distinguish themselves not only in terms of their skills, but in their ability to communicate their findings to others.
Empower individuals to craft stories with insight
Data insights become valuable when they are clearly illustrated to the business. Being able to tell an engaging and coherent narrative can be as important as the analysis itself. There are a number of skills involved, from structuring an argument and organising thoughts, to bringing them to life in a captivating way. A great insights course should train participants in communicating data driven documents, in terms of both visualisation and oral presentation.
By working towards these five outcomes, we’re confident that this course will aid individuals in both developing their analysis and communication skills, and in doing so create workers who are capable of helping M&S make s successful transition into a heavily digitized marketplace.
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