Are You Ready For A Data Management Makeover?

By Raghavendra (Raghu) Chinhalli, VP, Data Management, Ocwen Financial Solutions Pvt. Ltd.

Ocwen Financial Solutions Pvt. Ltd.Founded in 1988, Ocwen Financial Corporation (Ocwen) is one of the largest mortgage companies in America with over 7,000 employees.

Data is the new oil. This statement in itself elevates the Data (Management) office to one of strategic significance. How are Chief Data Officers or other leader/custodians in the data space reacting to this new paradigm shift? This article lists opportunities organizations could seize to relook at their data strategy. It briefly introduces important considerations as one goes for a data strategy make over. Data Management, a key function within the overall IT organization, has evolved over the decades significantly and demands diverse techno-functional skill sets at all its levels. This article is industry agnostic and focuses on key drivers of data strategy change. Also, remember this only touches the tip of the iceberg and more research & expertise needs to be applied as organizations relook at their data strategy.

Below are some potential triggers (taken together  or as groups) that could necessitate a data strategy makeover: (extent of the makeover depends on existing maturity of the organization)

- Data explosion: Organizational data deluge could be due to various reasons e.g. newer / more automated Point Of Sale integration, or integrating broader market data for analytics. Remember tons of your own and competitor data is somewhere available for insights and analytics. It’s a competitive advantage to tap into this data & benefit.

- Technology disruptions in your ecosystem: Borrowing from Porter’s five forces, continuously look out for any Competitor or new entrants’ & their technology disruptions. Likewise, transformations made among your suppliers, partners and/or customers  could demand change for the better e.g. data exchanges via multiple channels/touch points and near real time. Take a relook at disruption as it is happening elsewhere e.g. data virtualization, cloud adoption et al. Staying ahead of the technology curve & industry methodologies is no more a nice to have but a must-have.

Cost drivers: Internal costs on Data Management not proportional to rest of the industry or to rest of internal IT. This needs to be looked at from both angles i.e. if you are at a higher cost water mark what is the kickass benefit you are providing & is it justified; if you are at the lower end then who is suffering. Data Management already has a boardroom presence in most forward-looking organizations so adopt a boardroom approach to costs. Caution: Keeping costs low does not mean going back a generation or two in terms of technology. In fact, strongly resist a rollback on technology innovations.

"Without thought leadership in the area of data management, it will be a challenge in realizing the full potential of any organizations’ data"

Business drivers: Keep a close  watch on compelling business use cases e.g. Near real-time analytics, digital transformations. Data Management continues to be in forefront of enabling competitive advantage to the business. Ask if the Data management organization has the necessary ammunition to provide the firepower to your business partners.

Legal &Regulatory environment: There will always be mounting pressure from external regulators on data or data related risks going forward. There is already a need to stay compliant with multiple regulations e.g. HIPAA, GLB, FCRA. No amount of due diligence is adequate on securing your data. Keeping a continuous watch on the latest vulnerabilities analysis or security events (internal &external), that could potentially compromise the corporate data assets, and continuously enhancing your security posture will make your CRO / CISO happy. Of course, there are scores of others including corporate actions like M&A, business strategy reboot, IT strategy reboot that could be seen as an opportunity to redefine your own data strategy.

Once a data strategy makeover is imminent on the table, adopt the Gartner bi-modal approach to ensure you are able to dual track your progress;

- Mode 1- Make incremental changes in current state to address tactical needs

- Mode 2- Build in an agile method the new target state taking in disruptive innovations

Following are key considerations as you plan the makeover:

- Key drivers (Traditional): You got to look at the triggers we discussed above as key requirements in your mode 2 build out. This includes a high focus on security, adherence to risk & compliance via good data governance practice. Overarching cost & ROI focus. Scalability & Sustainability of the solution is yet another important consideration.

  • Collaboration: Involve the broader stakeholders i.e. executive sponsors, business units, vendors from the get-go. Build solutions to requirements and build them first time right. This is only possible with strong partnerships internally & externally.

- Virtualization: A growing number of use cases are embracing some degree of virtualization.  There is no one size fits all in the journey to virtualization. Important point is to ask questions & analyze options. What’s available as options such as colocation, public/private, hybrid, Iaas, Paas et al.? Who are the players? What are the costs not just for migrating but sustenance thereafter? What will be the skill requirements? Do you have access to such skills? Have experts in your team who can navigate this maze of virtualization offerings.

- Simplicity: Age old Keep It Simple approach to solutions design with a focus on accuracy, availability, ease of use. Focus on building a solution that works! Bells and whistles can / must be avoided till after gaining maturity in the data practice.

- SCRUM way: Using agile methodology automatically provides a time-tested framework to stay successful in a bimodal approach. Have experts who can successfully deliver in quick sprints and continuously evolve towards the big picture.

- Don’t forget your core competency: Adopt technology/tools tapping into your core competency i.e. humancapital while ensuring talent is easily available or trainable for any skill gaps. Typically in IT, a problem could be solved multiple ways. What makes the difference is the team that’s working on a solution. So nurture a great team.

-  Delivery: Execution focused with smaller team sizes but made of experts who can solve the technology maze prevalent in the market today. Your architects and thought leaders must know what a hype is and must be grounded in reality to successfully deliver a solution. Provide the independence to experiment while at the same time bring the teams back to focus on delivery.

- In conclusion, if data is the new oil for your business then roll up your sleeve and ask some tough questions on your current state. Without thought leadership in the area of data management, it will be a challenge in realizing the full potential of any organizations’ data.

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