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The Mars Digital Engine

At Mars, we often say “the world we want tomorrow starts with how we do business today.” Mars is a multinational corporation that specializes in confectionery, pet food, and other food products. The 100-year-old global confectioner – best known for its M&Ms and Snickers brands – has 100,000 plus associates around the world. With that size and scale, we need to continuously adapt to change with one simple mantra, i.e. speed. The digital transformation at Mars was initiated on the basis of operating at 100x speed to drive growth, improve efficiency, and avoid risk. 

What is the Mars Digital Engine?

Like many other enterprises, we’ve faced massive amounts of digital transformation, and with that came a much-needed change to how we solve problems. The data & analytics model at Mars is unique to our processes which we call the Mars Digital Engine. The Mars Digital Engine is comprised of four elements that make up our outlook on analyzing and leveraging our data: 

  • Find: This relates to the use of Design Thinking, a human-centered process focused on customer’s needs, to figure out what problem to solve.
  • Solve: We implement modern technology like AI and machine learning to drive the engine forward.
  • Deliver: Those tools are then used to execute the plan in an agile manner.
  • Automate: A priority is set to free up time and resources by relying on automation.

Through lots of growth and fine-tuning, we’ve been able to sharpen these four elements that make up the Mars Digital Engine and have been successful in enabling our data and analytics teams to rapidly deploy innovative solutions.

Value-Focused Analytics Approach

At Mars, we’re proud to operate with a value-focused approach to our data analytics. Before even putting the Mars Digital Engine to work, we focus our goals on decision enablement. While most enterprises would start by looking at their data to gain knowledge which leads to insights, action, and then impact, we do the exact opposite. We identify that a big impact needs to be made, then we look into what actions and insights are necessary to get there, and use that knowledge to locate the accurate data. Rather than over ingesting data to look for that needle-in-a-haystack, we recognize big picture value exists and work backward to identify what steps need to be taken to gain insights and subsequently the necessary data to make it all happen:

Building to Adapt

Another aspect of our data and analytics process at Mars is building to adapt. Investor Brett Munster has an analogy for this connecting business to the Choluteca Bridge in Honduras. Built in the 1930s, the bridge was an architectural marvel for its ability to withstand the extreme weather conditions Honduras is notorious for. It was state-of-the-art for its time, providing an access point for the citizens of the country. In 1998, Hurricane Mitch hit and devastated the country and while the bridge stayed intact, the storm routed the river in a completely different direction making the bridge practically useless with no water running underneath it anymore. This is a great example of how we can assume things about the state of the world, about our markets, about our insights, and still be incorrect. If we build solutions with no adaptability in mind, we are setting ourselves up for failure. My advice to avoid this trap is to build reusable and interconnected solutions that are malleable and flexible to change.

Food for Thought

How do lions hunt gazelles? Gazelles are some of the fastest animals in the world, even faster than lions. To keep up, the young lions often chase the gazelles towards the older lions who are planning their attack. Some gazelles freeze in their tracks at the sight of an older lion when being cornered but the brave ones keep running because they realize their talents and capabilities. 

Be the gazelle in your organization that takes risks and defies the status quo. There are so many new emerging concepts like AI and ML, for example. The old lions in your organization might get intimidated and go with their old-school, traditional mindsets but you should never doubt your ability to drive digital transformation forward in your teams. Hopefully, the Mars Digital Engine and foundation we’ve built inspires you to think innovatively and takes your data strategy to the next level. To learn more about what we’re doing at Mars, visit our website.

Deepak Jose

Deepak Jose is the Head of Business Strategy and Advanced Analytics at Mars. He led multiple digital transformation initiatives focusing on Strategic Revenue Management, Route to Market optimization, SKU Rationalization, Marketing Transformation(Shopper, Consumer Promotion and Media), and D-COM (eCommerce). He led SRM advanced analytics transformation program globally for Pet Nutrition, Mars Wrigley, Food, and Multi sales segments in the large global markets managing a team of data scientists and business translators.

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