(US & Canada) VIDEO | Don’t Judge Opportunities by Investment or Team Size — Microsoft General Manager, Enterprise Data

Karthik Ravindran, General Manager, Enterprise Data at Microsoft, speaks with Robert Lutton, VP, Sandhill Consultants and Editorial Board Vice Chair CDO Magazine, in a video interview about data and digital transformation at Microsoft, his role in managing teams for effective transition, organizational data challenges, and building a responsible federated model for enterprise management.

Ravindran refers to Microsoft as “one giant ocean with many marvels to be explored.” Adding on, he says that the professional journey fuelled his passion for data which led to building data systems for products like Microsoft 365 and Microsoft Edge.

Further, Ravindran discusses building the first data office inside Microsoft as a part of the organization’s internal data transformation journey. Moving forward with the journey, he realized that data transformation is not just about technology, but cultural change management and evolution.

According to Ravindran, transitioning decades of organically evolved data practices into modernized ways to approach data is rich learning. Consequently, he mentions working with customers through that journey as a practitioner, while navigating the learnings from internal data transformation practices.

In his current role involving lead product and engineering, known as Microsoft Purview, Ravindran leverages learnings from the applied data journeys. He further converts them into data governance solutions that can benefit broader customers and communities.

When asked how to manage teams for effective data and digital transformation at the enterprise scale, Ravindran shares that all the teams he led, started with 3-5 people. The growth came from constant learning and progressing with business outcomes and value outcomes in mind.

Moving forward, Ravindran focuses on building a functional capability that could serve the organization, bringing together enterprise strengths to partake in the team sport of data. Additionally, he urges data leaders not to judge opportunities by the investment size or team size but for what it could be in the future and “where the puck is headed.”

Adding on, Ravindran emphasizes embracing the unknown and getting comfortable with the uncomfortable. He notes that change and evolution are the only constants in the industry where learning, adapting, and evolving is the key.

Moreover, Ravindran believes that all growth journeys are about adaptive leadership, comprehending contexts, evolutions, and change management practices as an organization.

Shedding light on organizational data challenges, he discusses three top patterns that are prevalent in the industry as a whole.

  1. Creating value from organizational data and growing the business.

  2. The quality challenge

  3. The technology challenge

Highlighting the quality challenge, he mentions how it involves the entire organization partaking in the data value creation without compromising the agility needed across functions and teams.

Referring to technology as the third challenge, Ravindran states that while technology scales data innovation, no amount of technology can replace a sound practice. He maintains that any initiative related to data, starting with data management to applying AI for business growth and scaling with AI requires having a clear view.

The organizational practice will be a journey of progression over perfection, says Ravindran. Also, he cautions against getting drowned in technical models but promotes embracing new innovative technology that helps enable and scale the practice.

On another note, Ravindran shares how the centralized offices of the CIO or CDO can be competitive forces against the business functions that get worried about centralized initiatives. Therefore, he mentions building out a data office recognizing that the true power of data can only be leveraged if the entire enterprise takes part in it.

Ravindran advocates operating with a mindset anchored towards being a champion of enablement and striking the right federated practices. He adds that one of the biggest shifts that the organization achieved in the data value chain was balancing between common efficiency for overall benefit while enabling the responsible federation.

Commenting on engaging the entire organization as a team sport, Ravindran affirms that building the data office started with a centralized mindset. Initially, he started creating a center of excellence that would run and apply tech, and do it for business partners.

However, six months into the journey, Ravindran realized that the business functions were building highly competent teams. He states that these teams could be focused on applications of technology, data, and analytics for their respective business domains.

Further, Ravindran shares that the subject matter expertise needed to truly apply technology and data in a meaningful manner is pretty pronounced in each of those domains. Therefore, in this age, where innovation is democratized, technology must meet the business and the business must lead the growth, he opines.

This called for the creation of a responsible federated model that recognizes common services for everyone to leverage, while also accelerating the innovation at the edges, believes Ravindran.

Referring to this as a welcome change for all stakeholders, he maintains that being responsibly federated brings the best of both worlds. Ravindran confirms forming the federated model in partnership with businesses eager to drive outcomes.

In conclusion, he states that the main principle in this ensures that every step taken toward data modernization is aligned with realizing and demonstrating business value. Ravindran shares that 80 to 85% of Microsoft enterprise worldwide currently operate in this model and it has been a rich learning experience.

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

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