Published on
July 24, 2024
min read

The data story of Unilin, winner of the Data Maturity Award 2023

The data story of Unilin, winner of the Data Maturity Award 2023
Elien Averhals
Elien Averhals
Head of Marketing

Unilin. Winner of the 2023 Data Maturity Award, organized by delaware and Madison.Partners. And that achievement is well-deserved. They underwent a rigorous selection process to qualify for the award and were declared winners after an in-depth Data Maturity Assessment. This recognition is justified, given their strong vision on data & AI and the impactful cases they have implemented. 

Unilin's commitment to data-driven work was articulated internally several years ago. Eight years ago, they decided to roll out their data strategy to reinforce their business objectives, and they succeeded brilliantly. We interviewed Stijn Lioen, Data & Analytics Domain Architect at Unilin, who played a pivotal role in shaping the realized impact of data & AI. 

"Of course, we haven't figured it all out yet. We want to continue growing and optimally manage the flow of data. Our ambition is to move from data insights to data augmentation and ultimately to data automation, step by step."

Data analytics to enhance data maturity 

"When I started at Unilin about a decade ago, decisions were not consistently based on available data," Stijn confided. "A limited set of classical list-based Analytics datasets were available, but true data analytics was not yet in place."  

After thorough discussions with business stakeholders and with a clear vision in mind, a strategic separate Data & Analytics team within IT was initially founded. This team introduced a supporting self-service tool to gather and display data. Ambassadors within Unilin emerged to raise awareness about data within the organization. Colleagues received training and coaching to use data tools, and interest grew organically, building upon some initial success stories.

Entrepreneurial spirit and growth toward data-driven decisions 

The resulting time savings, for example, in Customer Service were significant, as Sales Executives gained real-time insights into customer data, allowing Customer Service staff more time to focus on optimizing the customer experience instead of spending time continuously on providing data details to their Sales Executives.

"You also need sufficient support from your management and business to try out initiatives," Stijn emphasized. Entrepreneurial spirit is a crucial pillar for Unilin, facilitated through a 'fail fast' approach. "We draw conclusions quickly, minimizing the impact if a proof-of-value or changed approach is not successful. Maintaining an open dialogue and strong partnership between IT and Business also is key and stimulates the desire to innovate," said Stijn. "Of course, we haven't figured it all out yet. We want to continue growing and optimally manage the flow of data. Our ambition is to move from data insights to data augmentation and ultimately to data automation, step by step."   

Unilin's unique data culture is the greatest success 

"The most significant and proudest success for me personally is the establishment of a robust data culture. While it took time, this culture is now so firmly in place that every new employee is immersed in a 'data bath' by default. Data-driven work is truly part of our DNA," Stijn proudly stated. The proof is evident. To familiarize employees with the data within Unilin and the benefits of data-driven work, they consistently undertake initiatives. This includes an annual 'young graduates' program for new hires, serving as a catalyst for employees' data mindset. Over three weeks, employees receive intensive training on using all tools, understanding how to use data throughout the company, and identifying data & AI opportunities. Stijn explained:"The whole process starts with a carefully designed data use case, shaped together with both the manager and the Data & Analytics Lead of the department in which the Young Graduate is starting to work. Going in is that this use case really adds immediate value to the Department. Next, during an intensive 3 weeks, the young graduate works on this case, fully supported by the necessary training and expert advice from both business colleagues  and our IT Data & Analytics Team. At the end of the track they present their solution and share their learnings. Each year, the outcomes of this program are truly spectacular I must say!" He added: "It not only helps us to progress as a company by solving concrete use cases, but by putting it into practice, new employees also immediately get truly embedded within our overall data culture.” 

Data Maturity Award confirms strong data & AI maturity 

Unilin's emphasis on working with data is reflected in its workforce. With around 8000 employees, including around 100 dedicated data professionals, both business and IT profiles collaborate daily to make Unilin more data-driven. Stijn shared: "Winning the Data Maturity Award was a great affirmation for everyone. As Unilin is becoming more and more a data-driven company, the award was very warmly embraced and is a tribute to our relentless efforts in building a strong Analytics community across business and IT people ." He also emphasized the valuable insights gained, confirming Unilin’s data & AI strategy roadmap. Madison.Partners' Maturity QuickScan serves as an initial indicator of how mature a company is in handling data & AI. Stijn noted, "You don't necessarily need the highest score on all maturity axes. Your foundations and vision determine to a large extent your growth potential. If your company advances to the top 5 selection, a deeper-dive assessment awaits, based on interviews that share information and gain insights. An objective perspective inspires and for us definitely confirmed that we are on the right track!"

As a conclusion, Stijn shared two valuable tips: 

  • Building out a data-driven culture within an organization is hard work and there is no one-size-fits-all approach which can be applied to companies nor departments within a company. Adaptive data governance is therefore key in any approach, harvesting from initial success stories and further growing with a clear pre-defined strategy in mind.
  • Artificial Intelligence is indispensable. So, embrace it if you haven't already. Unilin has incorporated AI into some production processes today already, such as quality controls performed by an AI application, significantly faster and more accurate than the human eye. Constant innovation is key!

Would you like to hear their story live?

Register now for our Data & AI event at Unilin, including a visit to the production site.

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July 24, 2024

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