Adopting Data-Driven Mindset: Not A Choice Anymore!

Vivek Bhanot, Director, Head Of Business Intelligence Competency Center (Bicc), Vpbank

Vivek Bhanot, Director, Head Of Business Intelligence Competency Center (Bicc), Vpbank

Data, Data Everywhere

Advancements in IT systems and ubiquity of online platforms have led to mind-boggling growth in volume, velocity, and variety of data that can be captured. The Big Data technology and services market will grow to $41.5 billion through 2018 and machine-generated data is expected to grow by 15 times in 2020 according to IDC. At the same time, e-commerce, advances in real-time data collection and monitoring, and, more recently, the anywhere/anytime mindset of mobile computing has organizations regularly measuring data in terabytes and petabytes instead of kilobytes. The real trick, of course, is taking all of this data and turning it into actionable information.

Success of companies will depend heavily on the way they manage their data. Effective utilization of data is fast becoming the centerpiece of organizational business model and strategy. Data, if utilized effectively can drive strategic decision making, help understand customers better and predict behavior, predict future business trends, provide targeted products and services, improve operational efficiency, improve staff productivity, identify risks and reduce fraud, enable faster response to business change, identify new business opportunities, differentiate from competitors, etc.

However, Challenges Abound

According to a research done by Ernst & Young and Nimbus Ninety, 69 percent of companies have not significantly restructured their operations to leverage data. 50 percent companies blame poor data quality as an obstacle to actionable insights from data and 32 percent of companies said their executives are simply overwhelmed with data. In a separate study by Capgemini, EMC and FreshMinds, 88 percent companies have no Chief Data Officer or other senior executive leading the data initiatives. The same study pointed out that 77 percent decision makers struggle to access data in real-time. So what is happening here? Everyone has a lot of data and there have been unprecedented advancements in tools available to analyze data, right? Well not exactly! Many organizations are struggling because of a combination of people/culture, governance, and technology issues as briefly highlighted as follows:


• Lack of data-driven decision-making mindset
• Lack of executive support
• Inadequately skilled personnel
• Lack of adequate investment and/or no standard methodology for measuring

ROI or sometimes simply not knowing how and where to start


• Poor data quality, low trust on data
• Data ownership issue
• Lack of common understanding of data across the organization
• Data security and privacy issues


• Data integration complexity
• Lack of a scalable and sustainable enterprise data architecture
• Low adoption rates for new data types and sources (e.g. unstructured data)
• Cost and time to implement technology solutions

Data-Driven Mindset To Solve Challenges Holistically

Long ago, organizations have started treating their workforce – those who make decisions and do mission-critical tasks – as an asset. Time has come to treat data, needed to support activities of the workforce, as an asset too. And, in order to unlock the value from data assets and address the challenges mentioned earlier in a holistic and sustainable way, it is imperative to embark on a transformation into a data-driven organization!

Being data-driven is all about culture. In a data-driven organization:

• Leadership believes in the value of data and constantly drives the message

• People ask good questions, challenge assumptions and have healthy debates on where to make improvements, investments, etc.

• Business strategy drives data strategy not the other way around

• There is a defined and shared data management service to assist people in data access and their discovery efforts

• There is a concerted effort to move up the BI maturity curve, from reporting to analytics (from “reactive” to “proactive”)

• Many people have the skills, access to data and some expertise with BI tools to perform data discovery tasks

• There is demand, priority and hunger to address data quality and other data governance issues

• Efforts to leverage data in decision making have measurable results

Becoming data-driven requires strong capabilities across four dimensions and five capabilities in each dimension. Following is the framework:


Leadership sponsorship is vital for a company’s success in transforming itself into a data-driven organization. Other key ingredients are having business driven data needs, a data strategy and insights led decision-making culture. Last but not the least, measuring the business impact of any data initiative or investment is extremely important.

Data Management

This is the most technology heavy part in the framework and needs a lot of involvement from IT professionals. Data management function includes the end-to-end data lifecycle that runs from creation of data assets through their useful life in the business and eventual archiving or destruction.

Data Governance

Data needs to be governed so people, who consume it and take crucial business decisions, can do so with full confidence. The Data Governance Institute states that “data governance is a system of decision rights and accountabilities for information-related processes, executed according to agreed-upon models, which describe who can take what actions with what information, and when, under what circumstances, using what methods.” Data Governance includes many important components like data ownership, data policies and standards, data stewardship, data quality and security management.


Analytics is the most exciting part of the data-driven framework. And, the one with the most potential as well. Organizations today want to be predictive; they want to gain information andinsight from data that enables them to detect patterns and trends; anticipate events; spot anomalies; forecast using what-if simulations; and learn of changes in customer behavior so that staff can takeactions that lead to desired business outcomes. Success in being predictive and proactive can be agame changer for many businesses. However, analytics is different from the more traditional MIS, reporting or BI functions. At the core of analytics, there is a problem-solving mindset that is crucial for analytics to have any meaningful impact on the organization. Also, a lot of factors need to come together for analytics to be successful namely: clear business objective, people with the right skills, strong techniques and tools and lastly, the operationalization part which is implementing the actions based on insights.

A Success Story

VPBank is one of the fastest growing and most profitable commercial joint-stock banks in Vietnam. In 2012, the management realized that in order to achieve bank’s ambitious 5-year goals – to become one of the top 3 banks in Vietnam (by retail business) & top 5 (overall), the bank has to transform itself. One of the pillars of this transformation was building a world-class data management & BI capability ultimately leading to information driven culture in the bank. In order to implement CEO’s vision & also meet fast evolving business needs, Data Committee approved the creation of BI Competency Center (BICC) to drive and execute bank’s data strategy. Since its inception, BICC has built a repository of 300+ automated BI reports for regulators, senior management and day-to-day business users. On the analytics side, BICC has developed and put into production various statistical models for improving cross-sell, migration to digital channels, customer retention, etc. The cross sell conversion rates have nearly doubled after the implementation of the models bringing in $12 million additional annual revenue to the bank. The customer churn in credit card segment was reduced by 12 percent within a year contributing an additional $0.5 million to the revenue. BICC also helped to improve the quality of critical customer data by 48 percent within two years. In addition to contributing substantial amount to bank’s bottom-line, BICC has brought a lot of local and international recognition to VPBank. The bank won the prestigious TDWI award in 2015 for its implementation of data management strategies. Last but not the least, BICC has been the best performer within the bank in terms of internal customer satisfaction for four consecutive years.

The Last Word

Just like pieces of a puzzle, all the components of data-driven framework need to come together to make a difference. Although the framework presented covers most of the aspects of being data-driven but organizations can tailor it to suit their business operations and expectations. It is not necessary to focus on all dimensions and capabilities at the same time but there should be a well-defined plan for achieving the end-state. At the same time, please remember that getting value out of data is not only about using the right tools or technologies. It’s more about building the right foundation in terms of having a vision, a roadmap and a data strategy and last but not the least, finding great people who can relentlessly execute the vision.

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