#ModernDataMasters: Tony Saldanha, President, Transformant

Tony Saldanha is the President of Transformant and a globally recognized information technology and shared services executive. He has more than 30 years’ experience in industry, including 27 at P&G where he led IT and Global Business Services for every region, and is a champion of creating new, relevant business and technology models to stay ahead of disruptive technology capabilities.

What was your route into IT and data management?

I have been in the world of IT for about 33 years now although I was anything but IT or data minded as I was growing up. However, as soon as I entered the workforce it became apparent that the future was IT, technology and data management and that’s when I saw the light!

I’ve had the great fortune of evolving with the IT and shared service industry across 6 countries and 13 different roles and assignments. I started the first shared services centre in the Philippines in 1993 and then was also involved with major outsourcing at P&G in 2003. Also, I was CIO of Gilette when P&G acquired them and then had the opportunity to run IT and Shared services for P&G in all corners of the world.

“I think that bad master data is a root cause for most data reliability issues but most people never really get organised enough to do something about it.”

For example, whilst I was the CIO of P&G India in 1995-8, we realised that our third-party distributors all had different standards for things like customer, order number, financial payments etc However, getting all this data harmonized was key to getting transparency into our retail operations. Trying to align all of those was my first insight into the incredible importance of master data.

You are a proponent of outcomes-based processes – what part can or could data management play in their definition and execution?

I honestly think that the future of business operations – internal and external – is  outcome-based processes. Let me illustrate with a common example.  Most companies run travel and expenses as a combination of 4 or 5 different processes but by contrast many tech-savvy start-ups manage travel very differently. They have an online system that spits out a budget number for the trip and that’s it – the process is done. You can book your tickets where you want, you use the company credit card and then there is no need to do any further expense reporting. I offer this as an example, because while the outcome of employee travel at reasonable cost is all that matters, in many companies sub-processes like travel and expense management have acquired a life of their own.

“The required outcome of a business trip is to get to the specific meeting and everything else is a waste in terms of processes. You can facilitate the focus on the outcome by focusing at the business outcome related master data fields – the actual physical meeting or conversation related elements or the cost elements.”

Everything else is a transactional, in-process data item.

What is the role of data governance in these processes?

Strong data governance is the foundation for effective master data. P&G has been at the forefront of driving master data management standards for the industry via the global master data consortium and through that work we have learned many lessons.

“Eventually we all come to the realisation that organisational entities like a company are just a silo of a transaction that passes through different companies – our suppliers, our customers and ourselves. For transactions to cross this virtual company you have to be able to speak the same language.”

Thanks to the effort of that group there are now standards across master data fields in most of the manufacturing related items. Driving those standards and governing them for the industry and the company are some of the most important roles that an IT professional can play.

“I read a statistic that in the order-management process, issues related to master data account for about two thirds of all the losses that happen. That’s an astounding number. That’s one of the reasons why master data, although relatively unknown to many senior business leaders, is so important.”

How would you define “modern” data management and how important is it to the success of digital transformation?

“I distinguish the modern data masters from the traditional ones by the sheer ambition of the modern ones to control not just 60-80% of master data but 100%.”

To explain further – the traditional strategies of data management were to drive single standards for a given field, e.g. a consistent employee or product number across the enterprise and outside.. That sounds like a worthy cause, but in reality most companies could never get past 60-80% accuracy. The gap was caused by two things. The first was human error to some extent.

“The other root cause was the lack of understanding that master data is dynamic, not static.”

For example, if you take the same bottle of shampoo, the weight could vary greatly based on different stages of product research, product development and manufacturing. It would also vary by country based on rules of filling the bottle. There is no static truth, there is only dynamic truth.

“Modern data masters use different approaches and technologies including graph databases; a dynamic understanding of how data changes with time and tools and techniques including AI to manage that. I think that is really important in today’s world if you want to drive digital transformation of the enterprise.”

How exactly is that important to the success of digital transformation?

I’ve already mentioned that traditional master data models can only solve for 60-80% of all of the potential master data issues and that two thirds of the issues in order management relate to master data. This means you are limited as to how much the enterprise process can be digitised with traditional methods.

To do a much better job of replicating your business model into a digital framework then you have to look for the next generation of capabilities. These could include AI and newer technologies – potentially Blockchain – and several other elements.  Then you must build on that type of foundation to digitise the whole enterprise.

These are very different sets of technologies than what was available to the previous generation of people like me when we did automation about 30 years ago. You were limited in scope and size and how much you could imagine the world in a digital lens. That has evolved and changed, and thank goodness for that! Newer technologies, newer paradigms of looking at outcomes and newer approaches to digitising the world have assumed so much importance.

What are your top 3 tips or resources to share for aspiring modern data masters?

The three things I would share with modern data masters are:

  1. In order to survive the fourth industrial revolution we are going to have to reimagine and change the way we do business. That extends to master data as well.

“Don’t be happy with the 10% improvement year to year, ask yourself how to get the 10x improvement . That level of improvement in master data is necessary in the current digital disruption.”

  1. Have people look at work processes end-to-end. Look at master data in terms of the entire virtual company – the total supply chain including your clients and suppliers – and create an ecosystem to drive standards across that
  2. Discipline – I based my book on the same checklist methodology that was used in the airline and medical industries to eliminate defects in day to day operations. That’s what I apply to digital transformation and in my 30+ years of experience I have continued to apply to master data. It is an area that can be broken down into a checklist where you can measure and improve – that would be my suggestion.

You have a lot of experience and success in the shared services field – can you tell us about a project where things did not go so well; what you did to fix this and what you learned from that?

Absolutely yes! Several years ago at P&G we were working on standardising and streamlining trade funds management for the company. In CPG and retail there is a lot of money allocated to promotions like BOGOF and discounting. It is very hard to get accountability and accuracy of those transactions and therefore measure which funds are productively spent.

At P&G we tried to use a standard system across the world, thinking that if we standardised we could improve efficiency, but that was almost impossible. In different countries and their unique trade practices, the way you define a return on a promotion varies dramatically.

“We assumed we could standardise the way local business practices were run across the world. In many ways this was a master data mistake.”

We very quickly pivoted and went for a two-tier architecture. We could standardise many data items – for example the management of accounting within P&G across the world – but we created separate localised systems across the world for dealing with clients and local country regulations with different master data.

What trends or changes do you predict to the data management arena in the next few years?

  1. The growing realisation of the importance of master data beyond IT professionals. Digital transformation has become a more accepted topic and now most business leaders are acknowledging the need for a standard set of definitions.
  2. “The second thing I predict is the evolution of master data technologies from static to dynamic. Traditional master data management tools and technologies suffered because they were designed for static data – offerings like Reltio are very interesting here because they try to mimic the real world.”
  3. The investment in master data within ecosystems is going to increase dramatically. People are going to realise that most of the waste that happens is at the seams of large organisations – not having a common language between the accounts payable of one company and the accounts receivable of another company means both companies are wasting resources and money. There will be a lot of attention and investment on these things.

What do you like to do outside of work?

I like to stay busy! Everything from handy man remodelling jobs at home to creative stuff like painting and other things.  I also like history – we travel a lot as a family so I do a lot of reading and research and I absolutely love historical fiction because I think history does repeat itself.

Then there’s my new book, called “Why digital transformations fail”.

“The surprising reasons that most fail is firstly because most leaders don’t define digital transformation correctly – they think about it as a use for technology or as an incremental change and not a complete reimagination of how business is done. Secondly they fail because of a lack of discipline in how change is executed.”

“I guess the common theme across all of this is that I absolutely need to stay occupied or otherwise I get destructive and you don’t want that to happen!”

Which is your favourite fiction book, programme or film and why?

I have several really favourite authors, but Bernard Cornwell is one of my favourites and the other one is Conn Iggulden – they are both very good at mixing history with fiction. They have the ability to bring an old era to life and yet make it feel like it is contemporary because of the way people act and behave.

In keeping with the historical theme my favourite movie is “Life is Beautiful” the story of a Jewish Italian man during the second world war. Anything that goes back to that era really is fascinating to me.

“I don’t know if it is just a cultural thing but we also like to do everything together as a family. My daughters at age 26 to 25 joke that everything from buying a new car to a dinner set is a family decision but hey – y’know – it’s fun to do that!”

Related Posts