Dynamics Matters Podcast: Ep 71 - How to sleep soundly with data and technology

With special guest Miles Miller, Interim CIO of Dreams.

✔ Do you know how your customers use your products?

✔ What drives a customer to come back to us? 

✔ How do Dreams monitor the lifespan of a mattress?

Podcast summary:

How to sleep soundly with data and technology

Welcome to episode 71 of the HSO Dynamics matters podcast. Your regular sonic dive into the world of Microsoft technology-related matters and much more besides. I’m your host, Michael Lonnon, and today’s episode couldn’t have come a moment too soon, because I couldn’t sleep a wink last night. It’s a good job then I got to spend 10 minutes chatting with Miles Miller, Interim CIO of Dreams. And rather than counting sheep together, we spent time discussing the importance of data, and technology, in providing a connected – and long-lasting – customer experience. Even when it comes to mattresses.

Transcript

Michael Lonnon

What happens to the mattress when someone’s finished with it at the end of its life?

Miles Miller

Lot of parts get recycled. Sustainability, in our industry, is the same as it is in any other part of retail. We try to reuse what we can and obviously there are parts that have to be disposed of, but sustainability and recycling is certainly a big part of our business.

Our mattresses have quite long life, some people own them for up to 10 years or more, and I suppose if you look at the commercial business hotels, there’s many, many people that will spend many a night on a mattress through its life and so they’re certainly well used.

Michael Lonnon

So how does Dreams monitor the lifespan and usage of a mattress, is it part of the entire supply chain or is it a separate thing? How are you doing it today?

Miles Miller

I suppose the short answer is that it’s an area we’d like to improve on to understand more about the post purchase experience and how customers are using a product. As part of broader loyalty concept. What drives a customer to come back to us? How do you move the purchase of furniture away from some of the big lifestyle milestones that you go through buying property, new homes, and growing families.

We want to understand more about the wellness concepts and how consumers interact with sleep. Sleep really matters to Dreams, and it’s really important that we design great product that aligns with and supports our customers but it’s certainly an area where we’re trying to do more research and understand more about and what that journey looks like.

Michael Lonnon

It is moving from a single purchase product of you buy it, and that’s it and you don’t engage with them again to, as you say, making it more of a lifestyle, purchase something that you’re managing, monitoring, and checking the wellness of individuals who buying it, you’re adding value.

It’s beyond just that purchase point and I guess, then, in order to get the information to understand that journey, and to connect everything together, data is probably quite important, or managing data is probably quite an important part of, Dreams, and their desire to do that.

Miles Miller

Definitely, data like any sort of business that’s going through that digital transformation piece, that we really want to understand more about who our customer is, why they have made decisions around their purchases and then, as I say, what that post purchase experience looks like and how they kind of interact with us as a, as a brand as a company, and how we can continue to support them. But it all sort of, as I say features as part of that wellness ideal that so much of the world is trying to battle with at the minute

Michael Lonnon

What does digital transformation mean to you?

Miles Miller

It’s an enormous concept. I try and make this about kind of three, three core principles. One is about simplicity. For me, digital transformation is about providing tools to simplify business operations, both for internal stakeholders and for external stakeholders. Businesses are about people that how we engage with one another to go and execute things.

Technology provides tools that you can help join up dots simplify ways of working and that leads into the next piece, which is kind of about alignment and efficiency. Again, I think there is so much value to be had through digital transformation is generated by businesses pursuing greater levels of alignment cross functionally.

Certainly, when you do things like ERP, it is about providing building blocks in different functions that tie together and join up the dots as to how information flows, you can simplify operations and certainly increase levels of alignment, which in turn generates value.

My third piece is about execution to digital transformation. I’m all about trying to improve our ability to execute on what we say we’re going to do and that’s primarily, customer lead, how do you increase service levels and how do you get to perfect.

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Michael Lonnon

What keeps you up at night Miles?

Miles Miller

Well, so to put some context around what we’re doing with Dreams, what I find quite interesting is much of my career, I’ve actually been in fashion, I recently came to the furniture business and what I see is that fashion has gone through quite a significant revolution, within retail over quite an extended period time, and furniture is still somewhat behind the curve. They’re not as mature around the digital capability.

Consumers are still slightly more accepting of the idea that you can buy a product and you can have a longer lead time for it to arrive. In fashion, everybody wants something next day.

I guess what I’m trying to do is take some of those ideas, I see that as a sea change of people and consumers from fashion retail that arrive in the furniture business, and it’s trying to help stay relevant, you know, make sure that, were future ready.

We’ve got the capabilities that we need to support our customers Amazon are driving much of this change as well but it’s all about keeping pace. I think it’s certainly a bit of a gap over the course of the last two years that we’re trying to keep up with.

Michael Lonnon

It does feel sometimes when you go into a furniture type place you are slightly transported back to the end of the 80s, or the beginning of the 90s, it’s still a little bit is, as you say, is it a little bit behind. So, I guess, that’s also part of the driver and reason why you’re going through currently an ERP project to try and try and bring that all forward.

Miles Miller

Yeah definitely. I mean, even things like product lead times are really, important. Invariably, as with any retail business, the way to try and reduce lead time is to carry more stock, and tie up more working capital in product, so you have stock on hand, and you can service demand as it’s presented.

And moving into a more stocked model. We are growing our supply chain, and we need the tools in ERP and the like to help us allocate stock to order and manage the turn around and all those simple business concepts that are important to execute service to customers and also to protect margin.

Michael Lonnon

What advice would you give to other CIOs considering moving into a digital transformation-based, ERP led, large implementation type project?

Miles Miller

It’s probably two bits. One is to try and keep it simple. You know, I think that is always really important with any strategy and or leadership ideal that businesses try and pursue. It’s not to try and do everything in one go.

I think there are loads of reasons why people or businesses enter into digital transformation or ERP type programmes and it’s really important to take a phased approach and pursue MVPs or, or simpler milestones where you can present value and you can take people on a journey.

Ultimately, the journey is really important as to whether you’re successful or not. Too often, businesses try and do too much in the first instance and that can be quite naive as to size of change.

The other piece briefly would be just to try and separate out what is business transformation from technical transformation. Business transformation is notoriously hard to execute and again, if you can keep it simple, and you can keep people aligned with your guiding principles, what you’re trying to achieve is far more likely to be successful and that paves the way for future phases of work.

Summary

Do you know how you customers use your products?

If you don’t, how can you monitor what they do with them, how they use them, and whether they’re getting value from them? You can’t.

Connected technology, in Miles’ words, joins the dots. It simplifies ways of working and creates efficiencies and alignments that in turn generate value.

Dreams’ mission is to ensure everyone gets a perfect night’s sleep. The more you know how customers are interacting with your products the easier meeting missions like this becomes.

And as Dreams move to Microsoft Dynamics 365, it is one step in enabling a more connected customer journey.

Thanks for listening, until next time, take care of yourselves.

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