Thrilling our clients with innovation and impact – it’s not just rhetoric. This belief is instrumental for our clients’ success. In 2018, we introduced our Chief Strategists, who provide vision and leadership to help our clients remain competitive. Get to know each of our strategists as they share unique insights on their areas of expertise.
The current digital age has generated an exponential amount of data. From mobile devices and online activity to enterprise performance metrics and operational considerations, data is all around us. By 2025 worldwide data volumes are projected to grow to 175ZB, creating more opportunities for business leaders to develop informed strategies and make decisions based on their data.
We recently spoke with Arvind Murali, Data Governance Chief Strategist, to get his perspective on data governance, building data strategies to optimize business outcomes, and his life beyond the world of strategy.
Arvind Murali: The AI and Digital technologies have launched the Fourth Industrial Revolution focused on machines supporting man and increasing efficiency and effectiveness. Companies across every industry are feeling the impact of digital and data transformation, and leaders are rethinking how technology and data can reshape their businesses.
As a Chief Strategist, I support my clients on thinking of Data as an Asset to use data in ways that they aren’t thinking about. I’m constantly listening to and learning from our clients about their business outcomes and opportunities. Then, I translate that feedback to help them build data strategy and governance to support and manage their data infrastructure.
By focusing on the business outcomes, we can build and implement data solutions that are broad enough to meet clients’ current needs and nimble enough to scale for future iterations.
What do you hope to accomplish as a Chief Strategist?
AM: Among my aspirations, I will continue supporting organizations with their digital and data transformation journeys. This support includes moving clients towards Data-as-a-Service (DaaS) models that directly creates bottom line opportunities. Some clients begin with a clean slate and want to capitalize on their legacy data assets. However, in that process, we determined that by marrying legacy data and enriching it with competitive and benchmarking data, it truly gives clients an edge. In the end, we’ve developed modern data platforms for them, allowing them to analyze their businesses, identify patterns, and adjust (as necessary) to compete in a digital market.
Above all, I always want to find purpose in my work by creating data solutions that make a difference for our clients and the customers and communities they serve. For instance, if our data-driven work provides a hospital with the ability to reduce a patient’s rate of readmission, that’s a meaningful end result. Or, if our manufacturing clients can simulate their components digitally and use analytics to enhance productivity, that increases their efficiency.
Why does data governance matter for today’s enterprises?
AM: How often have you heard advertisements from Exxon, Best Buy, and Amazon stating that they use data and analytics for competitive advantage? Can you think of organizations making these statements five years ago? Technology has truly enabled data to become an asset that’s vital for any organization’s growth. It allows businesses to manage their supply chain, understand buying behavior, create personalized marketing, impact people’s lives, or streamline operations. If properly managed, businesses can use it to create a tangible return on their investments.
Data governance ultimately allows you to monitor, understand, measure, and own your data assets. This will lead to organizations creating competitive advantage based on their data assets.
How does implementing data governance impact businesses?
AM: Data governance [involves managing] data, culture, process, and technology. On one hand, companies rely on technology, such as AI and MDM, automation, and mastering customer data. However, the fundamental process of data ownership requires cultural acceptance [from the organization].
For example, some organizations have relied on employees to compile dense spreadsheet databases that contain massive amounts of data. The process of creating them is time consuming and mundane, but it’s a familiar process that executives have come to expect of their reports. When working with clients on data governance, we design and build a centralized, modern data platform to house and self-service their data. Once established, it’s a shift for employees because they’re now tasked to focus more on data analytics rather than building the database. Overall, the change will improve our clients’ productivity, but it’s upending long-held employee expectations.
By incorporating organizational change management with data governance, we can prepare workforces for the future and improve effectiveness and efficiency. If we’re working with industry-specific data assets like healthcare or financial services, we can also integrate our thought leadership in those areas to influence the process.
“Intelligent automation is already present in our daily lives, so it’s changing individuals’ perception about the technology. However, unifying an enterprise and shifting the business perception about intelligent automation [for data] is imperative for success.”
Why do businesses need a data strategy?
AM: By next year, businesses strategically using data will realize $430 billion in productivity benefits compared to competitors that aren’t using data. This translates into untapped potential of available data that can advance business growth, which is why developing a data strategy can mobilize those assets. Companies such as Facebook, Google, Salesforce, and Exxon have already implemented a strategy to convert data to information to insights, which has effectively differentiated their firms as dominant players in the digital space.
Setting a strategy for how you use data is essential because the technologies involved are constantly evolving. For most industries, impactful solutions will incorporate some form of automation, such as machine learning, AI, bots, or some other innovation. Being adaptable to the shifting landscape will only improve the final solution and future-proof your organization.
Think Like a Chief Strategist
Tell us about a recent project you’ve tackled. How did we help the client achieve success?
AM: We recently began work with a large hospital to build an end-to-end Data and AI platform. This work supports the client’s objective to become more patient-centric. Ultimately, we hope to improve patient outcomes, physician interaction, and overall efficiency.
A digital transformation journey for any organization takes time, and this situation is no different. A few months ago, the client had nothing established as far as a modern data platform or supporting processes. In fact, multiple departments established their own analytics and attempted to make decisions using data silos. Now, a centralized data platform allows for self-service, collaboration, and cross-departmental insights into knowledge that wasn’t previously possible. Although the project isn’t yet finished, the client is already realizing some significant benefits.
What questions do you ask a client when developing a data strategy?
AM: The top five questions every client needs to ask of their enterprise:
- What data do we have?
- What data do we need to have?
- How do we use our data today?
- How do we want to use it in the future?
- How do we want to access our data?
These questions define our approach to creating data governance solutions that meet clients’ specific goals. Beyond that, these questions guide any enterprise that seek any form of digital transformation – they must embrace the startup mentality from the beginning.
How can businesses take a strategic approach to their data?
AM: A data strategy enables organizations to make informed decisions based on their data insights. Every data strategy focuses on three areas to optimize business outcomes:
- Identifying which data sets are available for analysis and – more importantly – which are not
- Building a modern data platform to host existing and targeted data
- Developing data governance to make intelligent decisions based on data that’s been collected
This process should not revolve around departmental silos within an organization. Instead, developing a data strategy should start at the executive level and involve stewards from different business units. A strategy with visibility across the organization can help prioritize goals by identifying shared pain points, strategic objectives, and situations where overlaps exist.
“Always have a data strategy aligned to your business outcome. Data without outcomes is like a business without goals. It can be exciting to grow quickly at first, but it’s not a sustainable approach.”
Beyond the World of Strategy
What are your interests or hobbies when you’re not wearing the Chief Strategist hat?
AM: My two sons, a nine-year-old and a three-year-old, keep me busy outside of work between their activities and spending quality time with them. I often joke that I’ve played cricket since I was born. It’s something that’s in my blood. My sons have also grown to love cricket, so we enjoy playing together. I also really enjoy boxing, which is my favorite outlet for fitness.
Additionally, I’m an avid vlogger and discuss topics pertaining to technology, data, and being a “Smarchitect,” a term I’m hoping to trademark.
A Smarchitect is a smart-architect who doesn’t limit him/herself to one specialty and chooses to wear multiple architect hats. Being able to switch from one discipline to another at any point during a solution process, Smarchitects can define an end-to-end solution that prioritizes the business outcome by being agnostic on technology or capabilities needed to implement it.
Learn more about each of our Chief Strategists by following this series.