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Leadership Through Self-Education

Anthony Devassy

Leadership Through Self-Education

One of the biggest challenges in the market place, with respect to data management, is the pure lack of awareness on data quality and how this impacts the various processes within the Insurance industry.”

2/2016, Mumbai India.

Recently DQMatters collaborated with one of India’s most progressive Chief Data Officers—Anthony Devassy of SBI General. The following is an interview conducted with Mr. Devassy about the insurance market in India and how continuous education in data management is essential at all levels within the company, even for executives.

Dan Myers (Chief Information Quality Educator of DQMatters): Anthony, thank you for taking the time to speak with us today. Can you please briefly describe your organization and the insurance market in India?

Mr. Devassy: Sure Dan. SBI General is a joint venture between the State Bank of India and IAG, Australia. SBI General is one of the 29  General Insurance (GI) players in India and is ranked 12th in terms of market share. [General Insurance includes: Auto (and motorcycle), Home, Health, Travel, and Life insurance]. Within these areas we provide around 75 different insurance products. The GI industry in India is growing at a rate of 16% over last year with close to 43% of the business coming from Motor (Automobile and Specialty) and 27% coming from the Health lines of business.

Mr. Myers: Given such a broad scope of business processes and differing terminology, the data management imperative at SGI must be complex. Please explain your organization’s road to mature information management and specifically when and how the Chief Data Officer (CDO) role was established?

Mr. Devassy: SBI General started operations 7 years back (2009), and since inception the organization has had a strategic view of data. From the beginning, the organization had formed a dedicated vertical called Information Management within the Strategy Department. The Chief Data Officer role was formed just two years back when Information Management vertical was made an independent department in order to leverage the value of data and focus on a single version of the truth. The formation of this role was designed to create a centralized department that would play a greater role in acquisition of high quality data, both in business units and information technology.

Mr. Myers: What are a few areas of success enjoyed by your organization, and also a few challenges in terms of taking market share or improving profitability through the use of data management and/or data science?

Mr. Devassy: One of the biggest challenges in the market place, with respect to data management, is the pure lack of awareness on data quality and how this impacts the various processes within the Insurance industry. As a result of this, there is very little that organizations are doing to get the quality of the data right. Organizations are focusing rather on analytic projects, but most of the analytic and data science projects fail because of poor data management processes. Also, the education system today in India focuses on training students on the technical aspects of analytics like statistics and usage of analytic tools. There is no attention given to data management processes which helps an organization to acquire and then manage the right quality of data which enables accurate insights using data science/analytics. Professionals who are in varied data roles within their organization need to take a holistic view of data management and not deploy siloed practices to help organizations achieve value through data.

Mr. Myers: What is the primary format for education related to data in India and more specifically at your company?

Mr. Devassy: Most of the institutes in India offer certification programs and education on analytics (e.g. MS Statistics). In our organization there is a very large  variety of types of data creation processes and data domains. This means there is a gap between what exists and what is needed. What is needed is experience regarding how data is collected and flows, knowledge of insurance terminology and an understanding for the role of master data and master data solutions. Typically the Universities or trade schools don’t cover this type of training, which means that the burden falls on each organization, through internal training.

Mr. Myers: What approach have you taken to alleviate this challenge and what training or self-educational tools did you use in the process?

Mr. Devassy: One of the goals of the CDO is righting the data quality situation. During my research on data quality, I came across the Information Quality Certified Professional (IQCP) credential, offered by Information Quality (IQ) International (previously known as the International Association for Information and Data Quality, IAIDQ). The IQCP framework and associated credential is relevant, structured and inclusive of all the aspects of a DQ strategy. This appealed to me given that I need to understand these in order to instill related best practices within SBI General. In 2012 SBI General was the winner at the DQ Asia Pacific Awards hosted by IAIDQ, andwas the runner-up in 2014 , so using the IQCP framework seemed natural.

Mr. Myers: How have you implemented data quality improvement initiatives within SBI?

Mr. Devassy: We have already included some modules about basic information quality within the onboarding (induction) process at SBI. These include topics about (getting the data right the first time, fixing data quality at the source, business costs of poor data quality [with detailed operational examples], and even topics geared to help all employees understand and care about what knowledge workers need in order to succeed).

On a personal level, my preparation for the IQCP exam helped, given that the topics about communication, training and interaction with senior management were relevant to my day-to-day dealings with C-level leaders. Because I came from a non-technical business and operational background, the warehouse data modeling topics were very helpful. The CDO must know something about everything—including some of the technical aspects, like being able to read Network Activity Diagrams and Entity Relationship Diagrams (ERD). Almost all of the topics within the IQCP have application for the CDO and his/her role within the organization.

Mr. Myers: Are there any other observations or recommendations you have for other CDOs out there who are developing and sustaining information management units and either self-educating themselves or building their team’s information management, governance and data quality improvement capabilities?

Mr. Devassy: Specifically in India, there are not a lot of resources for grooming a multi-faceted knowledge worker. Individuals are typically very strong in one area (e.g. Statistics), but aren’t well-rounded in terms of soft skills and other data management topics. Selecting and more importantly, developing, the knowledge worker is going to be a challenge over the short term. This may be different in other countries, but it is the challenge for the next 2-3 years in India.

Mr. Myers: Leveraging DQMatters’ online resources you have been able to pass the IQCP exam on your first try. Congratulations! Specific to DQMatters, what was of value to you during your preparation for the exam?

Mr. Devassy: The value of using the DQMatters’ practice self-test was of great help because it prepared me for the testing methodology and general format. The value of having the DQMatters modules (tied to the IQCP framework) is that it brings all the information into one place, rather than spending time trying to find all the research, and acquire various books. The information provided through DQMatters.com is in one place offering not only a time savings but also assembly of concepts in a meaningful manner. This facilitates the learning process when the right context is provided in terms of sequence during instruction.

Dan Myers

Dan Myers (MBA, IQCP) is Principal Information Quality Educator at DQMatters. Dan is a frequent speaker at data management conferences around the globe. Dan has a wealth of experience leveraging his background in business management, marketing research, database modeling, applications development and international business in Japan.