Meal-replacement business Huel may not be the first company that springs to mind when thinking about technology; but, like other successful modern firms, it has realised the power of using well-managed IT and knowledgeable staff to raise its potential.
"As well as using technology to improve our product, we have a core focus on how we can use technology and data to understand and improve the experience for our customers," says data scientist Jayesh Kotecha.
Rather than building its own tech, Huel tweaks third-party systems for its own use, which allows it to focus on its core competency:
"Whereas many other technology companies may have built their own technology from the ground up, we take advantage of third party best-in-breed technology. As an example, we are a proud Shopify customer, and this helps us to scale rapidly and offer our product to customers all over the world. It then allows us to focus our efforts on building our own technology and capabilities where we believe it will give us a true competitive advantage, and improve our business performance where possible."
Kotecha, who is shortlisted for Analyst of the Year and Rising Star of the Year - SME at Computing's Rising Stars Awards, has used this year to focused on Huel's customers: analysing who the company's best customers are, where they are and how to engage with them. He says they are people who are under time pressure, but who still want a well-balanced diet: parents, key workers, students and IT professionals are just a few common customer groups.
"Looking at the customer journey, [this year] I analysed how our different range of products affects customer meal consumption, their average order value, order frequency and finally their lifetime value. We now have a structured view of our customers and how they interact with Huel.
"We also value what our customers say to use and a large internal focus is on reducing our customer queries. We have an automated dashboard now that looks into…how we spot new trends our customers are talking about, to make their journey as pleasant as possible. More recently, I've employed NLP [natural language processing] to carry out sentiment analysis to further understand our customers."
As well as helping customers, Kotecha has worked to help his fellow employees this year, making data more accessible for everyone in the company.
"Decision-making was slower than it needed to be, as teams had to manually export and manipulate data from different systems to gain insight and make key decisions…
"I implemented a new cloud-based data stack to collate, manipulate and display our data in a way for all users across Huel to use and understand. I implemented Fivetran to securely extract and load data from multiple systems across our business into our scalable data warehouse on Snowflake. Tableau was put in place as our BI tool, to act as our single source of truth. I went around the business and understood key metrics and goals for each team, then began to build multiple dashboards to help them answer their key questions quicker than ever before.
"The heavy adoption of the tool has been rewarding to see - from usage data on Tableau I can see how often and frequently everyone across the business is querying our data to help spot opportunities to improve the performance of Huel."
Since building the new data platform, Kotecha has been running training sessions and weekly drop-in workshops to ensure the whole organisation can use it. The result has been improved data functionality and faster insight across Huel
"I've seen first-hand how our new data stack has helped us make better decisions to improve our customer experience and marketing performance," he says.
On the Awards themselves, Kotecha says, "It's a shame this year with the current climate that we cannot all be together in a room and network, but these are the times we live in. We adapt, and we should be fortunate we can still have the Awards. I look forward to the night and what it holds for us all!"