Bread Ltd is a holding company which brings together the first-class production standards of London’s leading artisan bakery and wholesaler, The Bread Factory, and GAIL’s Bakery whose popular branded products are sold in supermarkets the length and breadth of the UK. With over 80 bakeries and several thousand employees today, the business as a whole – now celebrating two decades of great bakes – is expanding at an accelerating pace.
Like many ambitious and creative companies whose expertise isn’t in technology, Bread Ltd has grown up with spreadsheets and largely manual processes for reporting on everything from sales and deliveries to customer service tickets and resolutions. Typically, this has involved a number of people collating information from multiple systems or departmental silos.
With the business scaling sharply, and a growing desire to measure performance, optimise operations, and innovate ahead of competitors, the time had come to introduce a more consolidated, streamlined and automated reporting capability that would support more timely insights right across Bread Ltd’s operations.
Bread Ltd runs a deliberately lean operation, harnessing external expertise as appropriate to allow it to access the latest skills and knowledge at speed. Without a large data department, the group would be relying on the right partnership to develop a modern data platform. This would need to be sufficiently accessible and easy for its own people to manage and evolve.
“We wanted a robust platform that would allow us to consolidate our core data sources in a single place, as well as automated pipelines to verify and assure the quality – and therefore our users’ trust – in the data,” explains Neal May, Group Head of Business Intelligence and Insights at Bread Ltd. “This would enable our team to be much more efficient and to focus on enabling the business with insights, and on advanced analytics and data science.
“Our guiding principles for the platform were for it to be simple and ‘code free’, using off-the-shelf components where possible,” Neal continues. “It was important that we could manage and evolve the system without having to hire a huge and specialist team to ‘manage the beast’.”
One Beyond had done a good job, and they had all the experience we were looking for in terms of deep knowledge of Azure and PowerBI. Their business model – which blends on- and near-shore resources – was cost-effective too. This was important as we had some budget constraints. One Beyond was the clear choice.
Bread Ltd is predominantly a Microsoft house in the systems it uses. To maximise its existing investments, it wanted the new platform to run on the Azure cloud infrastructure, connecting to PowerBI – the business’s reporting tool.
“We were looking at several different suppliers, then an existing agency partner recommended One Beyond based on a successful project they’d worked on together,” Neal says. “One Beyond had done a good job, and they had all the experience we were looking for in terms of deep knowledge of Azure and PowerBI. Their business model – which blends on- and near-shore resources – was cost-effective too. This was important as we had some budget constraints. One Beyond was the clear choice.”
Given Bread Ltd’s relative immaturity in terms of exploiting data, and its lack of internal technology resources, the company had some concerns about how it would achieve the pace of delivery it needed. One Beyond smoothed the way with a proof-of-concept using one of the company’s target data sources. “This was a really valuable exercise which helped to demonstrate the value of the project, and informed the right team to use,” Neal says. “From day one, One Beyond’s partnership approach was impressive and built our confidence.”
Following the proof-of-concept, One Beyond worked with Neal and the business to build a platform that consolidates all data sources across both parts of the business – The Bread Factory and GAIL’s Bakery. The platform, which runs on the secure Azure Synapse cloud infrastructure, harnesses all of the latest Microsoft technologies, is highly scalable and connects Bread Ltd’s data lake, transformation and reporting layers to its PowerBI reporting and data science toolsets.
The new data lake has ingested 12 different data sources from across the business, spanning production systems, labour rotas, ERP invoicing and proof-of-delivery notes, Google Analytics web interactions and bakery point-of-sale data.
“We’ve migrated away from Excel spreadsheets: everything is now fully automated and accessible via interactive dashboards in PowerBI, all designed with the users’ needs at heart,” Neal says. “We have a joined-up view of sales, delivery, shop and web activity, as well as third-party retailer data and even customer service tickets. Previously we couldn’t report on all of these, let alone bring them together in a single view.”
The new platform has saved the time of at least a couple of employees who, instead of manually collating data, can now spend time performing more value-adding and innovative analytics, Neal says.
One Beyond’s role throughout has been pivotal, he notes. “They’ve been a really solid yet extremely flexible partner, bringing the expertise and capability where we’ve needed it, plus the all-important ability to advise us on the best technology for our requirements.
“This project has allowed us to build a really strong foundation that has already accelerated our journey to being a more data-enabled business, with the ability to create insights much more rapidly,” Neal concludes. “Although we’re appointing our own data engineers, our plan is to retain One Beyond as a partner to advise us.”
This project has allowed us to build a really strong foundation that has already accelerated our journey to being a more data-enabled business, with the ability to create insights much more rapidly.