AlphaCert’s very own James Mines, Head of Product, participated in a panel at the recent 6th Annual IDT Summit on “Data consumption in focus: creating user-friendly delivery models”. The discussion centred on how investment data, once organised, gets distributed to and consumed by users within the business.
There were some great insights from the panel. In particular, there was a strong push to get the data to users in ways meaningful for them. This means understanding their data needs and consumption preferences, both now and into the future. What’s important is they get insights quickly! This acknowledges that users shouldn’t be curating and stewarding data.
To achieve this, funds must start their journeys and progress with a ‘crawl, walk, run’ philosophy. And businesses should not be surprised that the crawl phase takes longer than initially expected.
This led to a discussion by the panellists on being realistic about what can be achieved when you start projects to improve your data capability – especially when considering the expectations of the project sponsor and other senior stakeholders. It is important to recognise where you’re currently at, including the capability of your people, the maturity of your processes and the state of data quality and data lineage.
Thilankka Marasinghe, Senior Manager Investment Data – QSuper, urged people not to underestimate the amount of change that teams will have to go through and recognise the maturity of your teams. Consider how quickly they will be able to adapt to the new tools and ways of working. Invest in training to help them understand and use the powerful features soon available to them.
So, what did the panellist think the future of data consumption looked like? Will you still be using the humble but loved spreadsheet?
Yes, spreadsheets aren’t going away. All acknowledged that spreadsheets are a great tool when used for the right purpose. However, the key focus areas were seen as advanced analytics based on, for example, PowerBI, self-service analytics and automation in the investment operations process.
Self-service was a common theme; putting the power in the hands of users so they can build and configure their own reports backed by trusted and certified data sources was the way Tim Smith, Head of Data and Analytics – VFMC, positioned it.
Tim Smith also outlined his approach to finding the right tools starting with what the business users need and the business value of meeting these. This means understanding your data consumers profiles, now and looking into the future.
Secondly, Tim recommended leveraging existing relationships to find the right tools and to use existing software and vendors, where possible. This will ensure that you can utilise what you currently have and avoid adding unnecessary complexity to your toolset. For example, your investment teams can provide information on tools to support their decision making. Also, don’t forget about industry peers that might have already solved the problem.
Lastly, undertake a good evaluation of the tool. Follow good selection and evaluation processes before you make a decision, and the investment team must be involved in the decision.
James’ vision for the future was one where consumers of data have a personalised experience tailored around what they need to look at and how they want to consume it. He reminded us that consumer apps are setting our digital experience expectations – why can’t business uses have the same experiences?
The one constant throughout the discussion was the need for good quality data from which the tools can feed. To help your fund improve its data quality, check out our Data Management Maturity Model. It will help to identify the next steps you need to take on your journey.