Inside our company: Sagacity

Anita Dougall explains how her company helps clients squeeze value out of data
BizAge Interview Team
Anita, and her co-founders - Harry her brother and Malka her best friend
Anita, and her co-founders - Harry her brother and Malka Townshend her best friend

HI Anita! What does Sagacity do?

Organisations are sitting on goldmines of data and Sagacity is a technology company that helps them use it. We typically work with major household names that have large customer bases and masses of data – like energy companies, telcos, retailers and insurers – as we like the hard stuff!

We make customer data accurate, usable and enable clients to have a clear picture of who their customers are – which drastically improves relationships. We help organisations to acquire the right types of customers, reduce debt and increase margins as well as optimise value. We’ve recently been doing this in the eye of the storm that is the cost of living crisis, enabling suppliers to bill more accurately and even identify customers who might need financial support.

Then, we apply analytics to help our clients get a better understanding of how their services link to their profits (or losses!), by answering questions like do most profitable sales come through stores or the website? Does offering free Netflix with a mobile contract really help retain customers for longer? Why do half of complaint calls come from customers with one tariff or product? – how can we solve this? If there’s a problem, we believe data holds the key!”

Why does the market need it?

A sharp drop in profits, rise in operational costs, or a loss of market-share will set the CEO’s or CFO’s pulse racing. Yet, recognising there is a problem and knowing what is causing it and how to fix it, are very different things. This is where data can help and where we see a gap in the market. Modern businesses are sitting on gold mines of data. Yet having data and delivering useable insights are two very different things. Getting to those insights and answers requires hard work and a range of different solutions, skills and processes to come together.

For a start, you need clean data, or you cannot trust the outputs of any analytics or Machine Learning tools. But most companies’ data is a bit of a mess – particularly within larger enterprise organisations. Telecoms operators, banks, and utilities companies can have millions of customers and huge operational teams. Often, these organisations rely on legacy systems with data strewn across multiple systems and siloes between IT and business functions. Surprisingly, many companies don’t know how many customers they have, or how many pay their bills although most companies think they have this information. Ultimately, the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing as a result of siloed functions and inaccessible data.

Without having a holistic view of the organisation as a whole – understanding all the business processes, dependencies, where data resides and where the handoffs are – organisations will never see the bigger picture unless the insight is available. As a result, they will continue to risk losing market share, customers, and revenues.

This is where we are different. We take a holistic approach to solving business challenges, looking at every technology, process, document, team and individual, at all levels, to understand the different connections and how they may impact one another. Something as simple as a name being recorded in a different format has the potential to create issues across the customer lifecycle.

We take time to understand client businesses from the ground up using our deep domain expertise and frameworks to get to the heart of the problems quickly. By looking at the processes from an outsider‘s perspective, leaning on decades of industry experience and expertise, we are able to uncover connections and correlations that are hidden from the business. Our team identifies the root cause of problems – fast – then create detailed, measurable, and actionable plans, as well as delivering a fix. This enables quick, tactical, short-term wins to drive a swift return on investment, alongside transformational business change that delivers long-term value.    

Where is the business today? 

It’s a very exciting time for the business. In October, we acquired award-winning data marketing and insight agency REaD Group. As a specialist customer data agency, focused on customer prospecting and communication, REaD gave us the missing piece of the customer lifecycle puzzle. By unifying under one brand, we deliver a holistic, integrated and harmonious portfolio of data products and services across the entire customer lifecycle.

The REaD deal also means we’ve doubled in size, with over 150 employees having the choice of working across two London offices. And on the customer side, our base is continuing to grow, including blue-chip and enterprise, plus key industries. REaD brings with it some household names – including Nectar, Macmillan and Ageas – to join our existing client base which includes the likes of British Gas, Virgin Media O2, TalkTalk and Southern Water. 

So, our big focus for the year ahead will be on this integration. Bringing our services and teams together will help us to really test the limits of data, explore new markets and maximise our value for clients.

What made you think there was money in this?

There’s actually a family component to our story. In a nutshell, Sagacity was born from seeing first-hand the impact poor data quality has on a business. Myself, my brother Harry Dougall, plus our good friend Malka Townshend, had all worked separately across different industries and departments and found we were all encountering similar problems. Even though our lines of work weren’t the same, we all found that a lack of data quality and understanding was a real problem – so we set out to solve it.

This was for several reasons: poor quality data, an inability to access data and data siloes, legacy systems, or being forced to use slow, cumbersome DIY IT solutions. We all slowly came to feel that enough was enough and decided to set about turning the situation on its head.

What's your biggest strength?

Arguably our main strength is our cross-disciplinary know-how. We combine domain expertise with a strong multidisciplinary team of data experts including data specialists, DevOps engineers, analytics practitioners, developers, project managers and business analysts. Together, this team helps our customers bridge the skills gap, putting data to work and focusing on their core business.

I’d say our data and proprietary software, and bespoke services, are another key strength. Our integrated, real-time customer data provides clients with actionable insight through advanced data analytics and cleansing, econometrics, machine learning and proprietary IP-led software and solutions. These work to enrich data and break down data siloes, enabling us to join the dots across data, people, policies, processes, controls and systems. Ultimately, this helps us to maximise customer value and ROI.

What funding do you have? Is it enough?

We received significant investment from Queen’s Park Equity in 2021, designed to help us drive our growth plans and unlock what we like to call ‘the billion pound data opportunity’. This year, QPE also supported our acquisition of REaD Group, which has literally doubled our employee base and had the potential to really drive Sagacity forward for the next decade.

This comes at a time when QPE is accelerating growth in tech services more broadly through a £202 million fund. It says data in particular is a booming area, which I think only bodes well for us as it proves QPE’s long-term commitment to the tech sector.

What were you doing before?

Before founding Sagacity, I worked in investment banking within NatWest Markets, managing investment portfolios of major energy companies. After that, I worked in credit strategy, finance, and commercial teams at One-To-One. My brother, Harry, brought telecoms industry knowledge to the table, while our other co-founder, Malka, had worked in credit and collections across utilities and telco.

Are there any technologies you've found useful?

Technology obviously played a central role in all of our pre-Sagacity careers. For example, at One-To-One, I took part in large-scale change initiatives including replacing billing and CRM systems. I found these projects really drove home the importance of getting the right technology in place for key business functions. As such, I was really surprised when I learned many businesses were creating data solutions to support important operations in house. All I could think was: ‘Market leaders use specialist software for billing and CRM, so why would they leave their own IT teams to create data solutions?’ It was a conclusion we all reached, in time.

What is the secret to making the business work?

Before founding Sagacity, I was a user of third-party services which focused on improving revenue and reducing debt in businesses. I wanted to significantly improve these services, by demonstrating an understanding of the ‘real’ problems that businesses face, and offer genuine insights for resolving these problems. So, if Sagacity does have a ‘secret’, it’s that we aim to solve an age-old problem in a novel way: we help businesses improve revenue and reduce debt, by joining the dots to really analyse their data.

The next important thing for any business – not just Sagacity – is building the right team. Make sure that your team is aligned to your vision for the business, and willing to adjust to changes along the way. Hiring people who share your values is fundamental but can be easier said than done. It can be difficult to identify principles at interview stage, as these develop over time. Spotting and nurturing the right principles is a huge secret to success, but is also one of the biggest challenges facing most businesses.

Another ‘must have’ is courage in your convictions – both in terms of the usefulness of your products or services, and the usefulness of the team around you. Don’t be stubborn or unreasonable, of course! But at the same time, don’t be afraid to push back in the face of criticism, whether external or internal.

Relatedly, you should make sure you’re not afraid to build a business based on your specialism, even if that specialism is niche or has been poorly understood to date. We have created products and services that are an ‘educational sell’, as well as a business sell. In other words, we’re often having to make companies aware of problems that they may not realise they have in the first place!

How do you market the company?

Since the very start, we’ve marketed Sagacity through what I believe is the most powerful way: word of mouth. Our world class Net Promoter Score (NPS) of +82 speaks for itself, and our clients can – and do – recommend us to other clients.

Of course, you need more than word of mouth to truly scale. As we grew, we started marketing ourselves in the digital space, including email marketing and enhanced website content, pushing the Sagacity name outwards to accelerate brand awareness.

We’ve since supplemented this with product promotion, thought leadership material delivered at industry conferences, client interaction with case studies, and an excellent marketing and PR company, Spark – who have raised awareness and strengthened the Sagacity brand in our core markets. We also like to educate our clients and prospective clients with content tailored to their specific business challenges, supported by proof of how we’ve delivered similar success for others.

Tell us about the business model

In essence, the Sagacity business model is to build out platform solutions which can be fully configurable depending on the need. This allows the core engine to be untouched, which keeps implementation costs as low as possible. We make sure pricing allows for “same quarter return” for customers. Gone are the days of huge upfront investments and paybacks over the medium and long term.

Clients really value the return-on-investment metrics that are built into everything we do. This ensures we are held accountable for the benefits we promise clients at the outset of any new partnership – the focus absolutely has to be on the return, and not the cost.

What is the future vision?

I think the REaD Group acquisition is a real statement about where we want to take Sagacity, which is to really own as much of the customer lifecycle as possible. The more across everything we are, the more dots we can connect – and it is by connecting these dots that we can really make a difference.

We are already delivering multi-million pound savings across our core verticals, so the next step will be applying those lessons to new industries. From our perspective, REaD opens the door to new markets for Sagacity, because it has a large blue-chip and enterprise client base, principally across the Financial Services, Retail and Charity sectors. We will also be able to widen the scope of insights for existing customers and prospects in the telecoms, energy and water sectors.

So, overall, I think the complementary nature of REaD and Sagacity’s existing business and culture will open limitless opportunities for a new, even more powerful iteration of Sagacity. It’s a brilliant time for us, and by the same token, a very exciting time for our staff and clients.

Written by
BizAge Interview Team
January 10, 2023
Written by
January 10, 2023