Microsoft’s Wright: Focus on services to build data cultures

Corporate IT must evolve towards service provision to make organisations more data-driven and agile, Microsoft’s Jacky Wright will tell the Data Governance 2015 conference

Corporate IT must evolve towards service provision to make organisations more data-driven and agile, Microsoft’s Jacky Wright will tell attendees at the 2015 Data Governance Europe conference.

The conference runs from 18 to 21 May in London, and London-bred, US-based Wright will be presenting on how organisations can develop a robust data culture. 

Wright is vice-president of Microsoft IT strategic enterprise services, so she is in charge of all enterprise services and platforms globally for Microsoft. She is the one who ensures the company eats its own dog food before selling it.

“My role is twofold, maintaining all the enterprise platforms and services for our own business (like our SAP environment running our financials) globally, and all the enterprise platforms around social, mobility, analytics and cloud, not just internally but for our customers (‘dogfooding’).”

How does she think modern large-scale corporate organisations should best organise themselves for data governance and data science?

“From a governance perspective, how do you effectively govern the proliferation of data to gain competitive advantage by way of people self-serving? On the data science side, are there ways that IT can enable the organisation to embed data science?

“As data becomes the underpinning for any successful organisation, then it becomes a technology company.

“The IT organisation is evolving and changing, with cloud services and so on, so one of its services should be to embed self-service business intelligence capabilities, including for data scientists.”

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Wright says that Microsoft has a data culture, starting from the top, with CEO Satya Nadella. “Data needs to be seen as an asset, and Satya communicates that. You then have to govern the data in such a way that makes sense for the corporation, not as something owned by IT. Then you have to put a structure in place that has data stewards being responsible and accountable for customer data.”

How does she think organisations should combine an embrace of big data technologies, such as the Hadoop stack and non-relational databases, with the more traditional disciplines of business intelligence and data management?

“They must coexist. Organisations need to find ways to enable self-service in an agile way without too much structure, and at the same time build platforms and services on the back-end that will ensure consistency across the enterprise. On top of that, you have the toolsets so that the average information worker can do what they need to do.

“There is a shift from the old data warehousing world, from IT’s being a custodian and everything having to go through it, to not being in the way.”

Wright says that a modern IT organisation means “enabling people to think differently, understanding the problem to be solved, and mobilising more business acumen than ever before”.

An important element of that, she says, is for IT, on both the supplier and user side, to recruit and develop more women. “Technology has enabled everyone to play a part in our societies, so why is that not happening [enough]? What are the barriers?

“There needs to be more exposure to IT early on, and educational programmes that will encourage women and minority groups; and more role models. It is changing, but the keys are still in the hands of the few. There is an issue with Silicon Valley; there is a diversity challenge there. The question is: what are the systemic things we can do that will change this, in terms of access to VCs [venture capitalists], access to career opportunities? Frankly, the average young girl may not recognise what roles exist because she is thinking of it in the old traditional way.

“If an organisation is not as inclusive as it could be, if it does not harness the creativity [of women and minority groups], then it cannot succeed.

“If we show young people that through IT they can impact the world, that will resonate with them.”

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