“‘Describe IBM in one word,’’ the host asked Ginni Rometty, our CEO, President and Chairman. It was the Mastermind Interview at Gartner Symposium/IT Expo 2018 in Orlando, and I was sitting in the audience.

“Data,’’ Ginni replied. “And it’s the heart of transformation", she added.

This thought resonated and has stayed with me. As I reflect on that in advance of my 25th anniversary with IBM on Thurs Feb 27th, I am proud to share that I spent those years leading and implementing transformative data strategies and capabilities for IBM’s business.

In my IBM roles and assignments that spans across continents, two things were common: 1) It was always about data for the business, and 2) It was always about driving change and transformation of IBM.

I was in the trenches with the teams designing, cleaning, architecting, building, curating, governing, integrating and servicing data products and services that were key enablers for IBM’s own transformation.

I could write about numerous milestones and lessons from this quarter-century journey but I will share 3 most enduring ones:

1. Break internal silos by focusing on the Client. (That’s who pays the bills!) If anything brings everyone together (especially in large complex multinational companies), it’s the big C—the Client.

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to lead a global team to fix our legacy client transaction reference data and create a new solid process, design and structure for a single view of the client. This shared purpose brought together not only the data team but also our internal stakeholders. In a few months we rewrote and wired a new robust data governance process for day-to-day client master data management across the globe. In the next few months, we redesigned and built a new simplified architecture to match the data governance process.

Data governance leading the data architecture design was the key to our success. This model provides IBM business units with a single client identifier that aggregates multiple client transaction records and is now IBM’s single source for client master reference.

2. Move mission-critical and core processes to Cloud and AI and the rest will follow. Once the above mentioned client master reference solution was in place and humming, some of us who closely worked on it couldn’t resist the next step – the holy grail of client data – a 360 degree view of the client!

A small team came together, and I got the opportunity to lead the team with data strategy, data design and data architecture to define and build the Client 360 solution. This enabled a single client identifier to be used as the golden key to harvest and integrate multiple client touchpoints data across the company sitting in disparate systems (e.g., sales opportunities, sales revenue, sales territory assignments, accounts receivable, customer installations, customer service requests, NPS scores) along with client demographics and firmographics profiles. Together, these provide a 360-degree view of the client, with the lens expanding as other touchpoints get added.

Our Client 360 solution quickly became the catalyst to move enterprise use cases to our Cloud/AI data platform and be ready as a showcase for clients on their journey to Cloud & AI. (This solution, of course, may not apply to companies born in the digital era who may already have their client master data and processes on Cloud/AI platform)

3. You may not be in the business of data, but data is in your business. In the summer of 2018, I moved to a new role in IBM Communications as part of IBM’s executive learning and development program—Chief of Staff to IBM’s Chief Communications Officer (CCO). In this role, I partner with the CCO on strategy and operations for the group while I bring my data/analytics/insights background to lead our data-driven Communications initiative.

In a short span, I learned so much about the role of Communications for the company and in the industry across different Communications disciplines: corporate reputation, PR, crisis management, enterprise storytelling, content creation and distribution, IBMer communications and CSR/citizenship initiatives. It has been an exciting journey to embed data and insights into different Communications processes and evolve the organization to its next level of capability and expertise.

In 2019, we built a foundation of relevant data for media monitoring and analytics serving as our single source for the organization for earned media measurements and analytical insights. We don’t spend time arguing whose metrics are accurate, but we have a lot more to do. IBM Communications group is rapidly moving from descriptive to diagnostics and predictive levels in 2020 in the data excellence maturity curve, with our eyes set on the goals of prescriptive and cognitive/AI capabilities for Communications. This is what IBM does for its clients every day!

One thing is sure. We need more folks in our small tribe of data whisperers (not mere data enthusiasts) in the Communications industry. Data whisperers understand data, its behaviors/gaps and know how to make it usable. More often than not we see a maniacal focus on measurements (the means) but very little or no focus on building and embedding actionable insights (the end) in the way we work as Communications professionals. I truly believe that there is a great and exciting opportunity (and it is high time) we intentionally applied the science to the art of Communications. (Topic for my future blog!)

Gratitude is an attitude, and I am thankful and grateful for the opportunities I’ve received over the last 25 years in IBM, and for continuing to work with talented, passionate and dedicated IBMers every day. Thank you to my managers, leaders, teams, colleagues, partners, friends and family for being part of my journey. As we look to the next chapter of IBM, I am more excited than ever to be part of this adventure.

They say, the greatest invention of IBM is the IBMer and I am so grateful to be one. Thank you.

Disclaimer – the views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely mine and do not represent views and opinions of IBM or IBMers mentioned in this blog.

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