(US & Canada) | Technology Needs to Be Anchored to the Personas Driving Value — Microsoft General Manager, Enterprise Data

Karthik Ravindran, General Manager, Enterprise Data at Microsoft, speaks with Robert Lutton, VP at Sandhill Consultants and CDO Magazine Editorial Board Vice Chair, in a video interview about making technology choices, leveraging full data potential, data governance, and the role of the data leader.

Ravindran begins by stating how technology choices must be made with an anchor based not only on the value outcomes but also on the users and personas who drive that value. As a data leader, while practicing a federated approach to data, one has to recognize that the practitioners are going to have their own complementary skill sets.

For instance, Ravindran mentions how the role of data steward involves managing the data estate for a business area, which requires an understanding of data and business alike. That role cannot be compared to that of an IT engineer and is more than that of a data scientist or analyst.

Adding on, the data steward role makes it safe and responsible for others to use and apply data, and its functional value must be appreciated, says Ravindran. Then, he stresses the importance of building technology to enable a function like that.

Speaking of Microsoft, Ravindran mentions having a repository of tools and platforms for data scientists and not having to build customized technology for that. However, he asserts the difference between giving a toolset to a persona and giving them the foundation to apply the toolset with good practices.

Therefore, the organization takes into consideration change management practices and workflows to stitch together personas such as data stewards and operation personas and recognize their unique needs.

It is critical to identify the right type of investment to address user needs and act accordingly, says Ravindran. Regarding Microsoft, in some cases, it was about adapting an existing product for a persona. In other cases, it involved filling product gaps by building custom layers of experience to activate the personas.

Taking those lessons, Microsoft filled the gaps by building something custom for the internal Microsoft data community. Ravindran shares about partnering with product teams to convert capabilities into solutions for broader customers to benefit from instead of custom-building themselves.

According to Ravindran, the whole technology maze needs to be anchored to the value outcomes and the personas that need to drive those value outcomes. Then comes the conscious choice of deciding between when to build versus leveraging existing capabilities, or integrating both.

Ravindran adds that organizations must look at it through the lens of organizational maturity and user needs. It boils down to training to get users ramped up and investing in not just building tech but also adopting and generating value outcomes from the tech. He calls it a journey of progression over perfection.

Moving forward, Ravindran affirms that to churn the fullest potential out of data, having the domain expertise to do it across the organization is a differentiator. When the expertise existing in business and operational functions across enterprises is applied in context with data assets, it results in greater value outcomes.

Commenting further, Ravindran states that organizations take a centralized approach to data management and data application, as opening data broadly would create compliance risks. Rather, he states that organizations must focus on common capabilities and getting the foundations right to safely democratize data for broader organizational use.

Ravindran strongly proposes a pivotal mindset – looking at things that are seemingly blockers and converting them into step-function accelerators. Also, he states that no single functional leader can do it all, and the whole ecosystem must come together.

At the end of the day, the value outcome of all investments is how the business needles of an organization move forward. To accomplish that, organizations must enable force function acceleration by involving stakeholders and partners and being active contributors.

It boils down to which teams or leaders in the organization are best positioned to build something for the organization, be it a shared data product or a data application. The principle behind it should be building it once and using it across organizations to benefit the entire ecosystem.

Next, Ravindran comments on the need to patternize the journey and set a cadence. For Microsoft, it started once a quarter, and then it was accelerated to once each month, wherein the teams embraced much-needed patterns and institutionalized them.

Commenting on data governance, he mentions the negative context that data governance has garnered. Therefore, it is crucial to make business users excited about it within Microsoft. He notes that well-executed governance can accelerate the responsible activation of data.

Strengthened security, compliance, and policy management make it safer and easier for an organization to scale data reach and data usage, says Ravindran. Organizations must recognize data governance as a two-sided coin that has data protection and data activation, he adds.

The protection part includes putting security, compliance, risk management, and privacy in place, which in turn, accelerates activation that promotes responsible data discovery, self-serve access, and data applications.

As a data leader, the focus should be on building common capabilities to unleash and accelerate data activation for business and understanding the minds of business stakeholders. After passing that spectrum, it boils down to generating value from data by applying data to data products and building experiences to make employees productive.

Data officers must be incrementally thoughtful while navigating the investments that truly benefit the organization at scale versus investments that must be at the edges. In conclusion, Ravindran states that a modern data leader must bring together expertise across functions that can scale with common foundational practices.

CDO magazine appreciates Karthik Ravindran for sharing his invaluable insights with our global community.

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(US & Canada) | Technology Needs to Be Anchored to the Personas Driving Value — Microsoft General Manager, Enterprise Data

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